Friday, August 13, 2010

Somerville Writer Will Fertman: From China to Cheese.

Somerville Writer Will Fertman: From China to Cheese.

By Doug Holder

Being a ritualistic early morning denizen of the Bloc 11 café in the Union Square section of Somerville, I couldn’t help but notice a man somewhere in his thirties, with a shock of Harpo Marxish curly brown hair, laboring over a computer like a mad scientist. Another writer in the Paris of New England you say smugly? Well you are right.

Will Fertman, 32, lives in the Davis Square section of Somerville but commutes down to Bloc 11 because he can’t write at home, and the Bloc 11 was on route to his job at the Boston Review, a literary and political journal based in our burg. Fertman and I eventually came out of our respective shells and started to converse. I asked to interview him, and he consented to a 7A.M. meeting.

Fertman, after experiencing a stint of wanderlust that took him from China, to New York City, and eventually to here in the Ville, has found our city a place to firmly plant his feet. He grew up in Winchester, Mass. and later graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, eventually getting his MFA from Goddard College in Vermont. He told me that even though he lived in NYC he prefers Somerville. Fertman said: “ New York is too conformist. By nature I am somewhat of a hermit. My idea of a good evening is inviting someone over my apartment for dinner. You don’t do that in N.Y. In Somerville I enjoy the eclectic texture: the students, the Brazilian immigrants, the old-time Somerville residents—all here in Union Square.”

In 2008 Fertman landed a job as an advertising and promotion director of the Boston Review. The Review is a well-respected literary and political journal that publishes some of the work of the major political thinkers, and literary lights of our time. Here Fertman worked with the likes of Pulitzer-Prize winner Junot Diaz, poets like Mary Jo Bang, Timothy Donnelly and others.

While working at the Boston Review, Fertman labored over his novel that was inspired by his time living in the Republic of China. He told me it is a story of an Asian Frankenstein. It all takes place in the sometimes gothic and rabidly industrial society of contemporary China.

Fertman has recently left the Boston Review to write for a cheese magazine titled “Culture.” The magazine is looking to possibly locate in Somerville. Although Fertman is no cheese expert, he gets to write a column in which he can ruminate about cheese, from the sharp and biting Cheddar to the more “holy” grounds of Swiss. In one column Fertman wrote it concerned a 15th century heretical philosopher who speculated that earth was formed from, well, a blob of cheese. Needless to say this did not go over well with the powers-that-be at the time.

Fertman listed his favorite Somerville haunts to procure this epicurean delight. On his list was Sherman’s Market and Capone’s in Union Square, Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Teele Square, and other cheese hubs.

Fertman told me he always likes to offer his readers a hook in his writing. He wants to make his readers laugh or gasp, maybe both. Fertman believes that writing is not a “polite” art—and he is dedicated to putting sizzle in the reader’s steak.

Fertman’s favorite writers are Iris Murdock, Raymond Chandler, and Shelley Jackson, to name a few.

And to young writers wherever you are Fertman opines:

“ The two things that I learned was to write constantly, read religiously, and write about what you are interested in. Don’t wait to be recognized; send your work out; start your own magazine, or your own blog—be persistent and network with other writers.”

Fertman believes that an MFA in Writing is not for everyone, but he needed the discipline to write a lot and at level that you need to make it in the biz.

Like any true Somerville scribe, Fertman shook my hand after the interview, and retreated into the recesses of Bloc 11 to pound the keys on his shopworn laptop.


From Will Fertman's column about cheese in "Culture Magazine"

Cheese might seem like a wholesome business on the surface, but here at culture we’re not afraid to peel back the wax and give you a taste of the gamier side:

Dec. 7, 2005,
Memphis, TN (AP):
Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, was arrested over the weekend and charged with four counts of attempted murder and four counts of soliciting a murder . . . According to police, Booth was in the intended victims’ home last week when she mistook a block of queso fresco for cocaine, inspiring the idea to hire someone to break into the home, take the drugs, and kill the men . . . “Four men were going to lose their lives over some cheese,” said Lt. Jeff Clark.

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