Credit: Brian McConley

Goldie Goldbloom

The French-language edition of Goldie Goldbloom’s debut novel is classified as litterature etrangere, which only means “foreign fiction.” But the implication of strangeness isn’t out of place. Published under several titles—first The Paperbark Shoe, then Toads’ Museum of Freaks and Wonders, then The Paperbark Shoe again, and now, in the etrangere translation, Gin et les italiens—Goldbloom’s book centers on an albino former concert pianist named Gin Toad who farms the Australian outback during World War II with her dwarfish, gay, corset-fetishist husband and a pair of Italian POWs. But Gin’s got nothing on Goldbloom herself. As an out lesbian Hasid, the Chicago-based writer isn’t merely anomalous—in certain quarters she’d be considered impossible. What’s interesting about all this strangeness is how beautifully Goldbloom carries it off, both in the novel and in person. Everyone at the Reader who’s had contact with her is smitten. And those of us who’ve read The Paperbark Shoe/Toads’ Museum/Gin et les italiens have been stunned by its empathic genius. The second title notwithstanding, there are no freaks in the world Goldbloom creates. People are tortured, funny, and very often exceedingly vicious in an entirely human vein. The descriptions of nature are something, too. —Tony Adler