Kleinman channels grief into third short-story collection


Martin Kleinman has been a Riverdale resident for the last 14 years and has published his short stories for just as long.

Kleinman’s work, entitled When Paris Beckons, is important to him because the Covid pandemic brought sickness and loss to his family. Both his mother and his mother-in-law passed away from complications of the virus, leaving him with an intense journey of grief that culminated in this latest collection of short stories.

“I think you have to be some kind of superhuman to come out of that unscathed,” Kleinman said. “I’m not a big believer in what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Whatever doesn’t kill you warps you.”

Kleinman said he wants his stories to appeal to people still navigating a life post-Covid. While there is no direct connection between the 17 stories in the new collection, the string tying them all together is the new world we live in.

“Each one deals with a certain aspect of New York City life and what people are going through, especially for the last four years,” he said.

Kleinman has worked in public relations throughout his career, writing reports, press releases and speeches for other people. But when he decided to go into business for himself, he did so to pay homage to the little kid in him who just wanted to write stories.

In 1998, Kleinman began his public relations firm, Communications Strategies LLC, where he worked until his retirment two years ago.

“It got to the point where I was like, I did that, and now I’m secure and it’s time to write about what I want to write about,” Kleinman said.

At the age of 15, Kleinman got his first job working in the Old Fordham Library. He’s been surrounded by books and writing for as long as he can recall.

“I’m not really a math person, not really a science person. The one thing I was good at was writing and telling stories,” he said.

Despite having moved all over the city, Kleinman’s ties to the Bronx run deep, He attended high school at DeWitt Clinton and continued his studies at Lehman College.

Since moving to Riverdale, Kleinman said his fiction just flows out of him. His process for writing is intuitive, he said, choosing only to write once he feels like he has the words; he doesn’t push himself if it isn’t there.

Throughout Covid and since, he has found several spots in the city he finds comforting and ritualistic to visit while trying to clear his head. He is a big fan of the An Beal Bocht Cafe and is a frequent member of their monthly writer’s night events. When he’s looking for more fresh air, Kleinman said he wanders over to Van Cortlandt Park’s The Tortoise and the Hare statue.

Kleinman said he enjoys life in Riverdale; it feels slower than other city neighborhoods he’s lived in. He compares the experience to living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, adding Riverdale has plenty of energy as it draws in young families that breathe life into the area.

As the times change, Kleinman said, he wants his stories to focus on the path forward. The first story in the collection is emblematic of this, as the main character is a New Yorker who is forced to navigate the passing of his wife after she falls ill with Covid. The character is left reeling and, in an attempt to right himself, he travels to Paris and the storyline follows him coming to terms with his loss.

The rest of the stories vary in style and subject, Kleinman said.

One of them, Thirty-Nine Bye-Byes, offers an honest look at grief and what it feels like to receive the dreadful phone call forecasting a sick loved one’s passing.

The story is told in 39 thoughts arranged out of order, mimicking the chaos of grief and loss as a man learns of his father’s worsening condition and recalls moments from his life.

“I know I’m not alone. What I’m trying to think through is what we’ve just been through and how this is going to impact us,” he said.

When Paris Beckons is available for purchase on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Martin Kleinman, Riverdale resident, short stories, Covid pandemic, grief, New York City life, post-Covid, public relations, Communications Strategies LLC, Bronx, writing process, An Beal Bocht Cafe, Van Cortlandt Park, Riverdale lifestyle, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.