The Bio of
Jacob Schwartz
Jacob Schwartz (1943 – 1976) suffered no career hardships during what Harold Bloom once described as “the nuclear trajectory of his abbreviated literary activity.” Soon after attending the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his novel Old Demons, New Slaves was published to overnight international fame. This work, like most of the Schwartzian canon, explores the moral repercussions of Eastern European Jews abandoning pious shtetl ways for American debauchery. He was only twenty-five at the time. From that point forward his career reads like that of any young author’s fantasy. If his short stories were not showing up in The Partisan Review then he was off accepting an O. Henry Award. The misery to be found in Jacob Schwartz’s life was suspiciously quarantined to that of the personal sphere. Though suffering no lack of remuneration for his work, he chose to spend most of his short adult life in his single room childhood home in Chicago. There, he faithfully attended synagogue each morning with his asthmatic father who also happened to be employed as the synagogue’s glorified but pitiful janitor. When Jacob was thirteen, his mother mysteriously disintegrated one Sabbath afternoon when she was about to serve a spoonful of Cholent to Schwartz senior. At seventeen, Jacob was diagnosed with Boneranus, a fatal illness where the scrotum attacks the entire body except the penis which it progressively enlarges, eventually annihilating the victim by reducing him to a giant disembodied phallus. In his last and excruciatingly painful days, Jacob dutifully maintained his religious and creative life. He could be found after morning services still draped in his tallis, squeezing a pen in the hole of his then six foot penis-body struggling to put down at least two pages per day.

In an effort to spiritually decode his ailment, Jacob Schwartz wrote a series of essays (unpublished to this date) on his condition that he referred to as Phallus Unmasked (The Orthodox Union Archives of Chicago). Below is a brief excerpt.

If a penis lies flaccid and dormant most of a man’s life and may at its chance lift up into its full spirit by that life’s late evening, then the house of Shaddai declares the body that houses this penis to be unfit for literature. The Rav said women are forbidden to brush up against such a man on the street, even accidentally, even if this man intentionally falls in her direction, repeatedly, hoping that their elbows will meet. But Rav Nunia said whenever that hour may be that this penis has risen and begs to release its harrowing tension, this man in place of such lewd and accidental athletics, must pick up the pen and write of the house of Shaddai until this cock can be said to have served its purpose and fallen back into slumber.

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