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A Book Too Late

January 04, 1987|ELIZABETH MEHREN

NEW YORK — As a Polish Jew living in Montreal, Haja Rapkowski, 67, had been cut off from much of her family for at least five years, since the imposition of martial law in Poland. So she was at once overjoyed and amazed when she spotted her cousins, Sara and Rafael Ader, gazing out at her from the pages of "Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland." In fact the cover of Malgorzata Niezabitowska's and Tomasz Tomaszewski's book for Friendly Press depicted a much younger Sara and Rafael, for it was the 40-year-old wedding picture of the Aders on Rapkowski's bureau that convinced her she had once again found her family. Unfortunately, just weeks before the authors, located by the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada, were able to make contact with the septuagenarian Aders, Rafael had died. Although eager to hear from her Canadian cousin, Sara was alone: more so even than when she had said in the book, "We live here entirely alone. For whole months nobody comes to see us except the lady from Public Welfare." Such isolation is among the recurring themes of the book by journalist Niezabitowska and her photographer husband Tomaszewski that documents the daily lives of the 5,000 Jews remaining in Poland today--legatees of a culture that once numbered 3.5 million. A Nieman Fellow at Harvard University this year, Niezabitowska and her family are living in Cambridge, Mass.

THE RECLUSE SPEAKS: Sworn testimony by J. D. Salinger to lawyers involved in his dispute with Random House over the publication of an unauthorized biography indicates he is spending his days in Cornish, N.H., writing fiction. The normally taciturn Salinger made this disclosure during a rare visit to New York in his effort to block publication of Ian Hamilton's "J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life." The 65-year-old author of "Catcher in the Rye" published his last story in 1965, and has subsequently immured himself in personal and literary privacy.

RAMBO WANTS YOU TO READ: At GTGL, the "Give the Gift of Literacy" campaign, the three R's stand for Reading, Rambo and Rocky now that actor Sylvester Stallone has been named spokesperson. With money to be raised through coinbox donations in more than 5,000 bookstores across the country, the project aims to generate at least $1 million annually for literacy organizations that provide reading programs for children and adults. Major GTGL sponsors include B. Dalton Bookseller, Gulf Western/Simon & Schuster, Random House and Bantam Books.

HOLDING THE ESSAY IN ESTEEM: In what is believed to be the first award of its kind established for American writers of nonfiction, the PEN American Center, in cooperation with the New York Community Trust, has created the $3,000 PEN/Jerard Award Fund to be given for the first time in 1987 to a woman writer at an early point in her career for a work-in-progress of general nonfiction. An outgrowth of the Elise Jerard Environmental and Humanitarian Trust, the new program stems from PEN's joint contentions that "the art of essay writing is not adequately prized in America" and that "women writers of nonfiction are as deserving of as much critical attention as those of fiction." Applicants for the PEN/Jerard Fund Award must have published at least one article in a national publication or in a major literary magazine, but must not have published more than one book in any field. Application deadline is May 15, 1987, and further information may be obtained from the PEN American Center, 568 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012.

CRIME AND COLLABORATION: Jailed briefly for auto theft as a young man, Nuel Emmons struck up a prison acquaintance with the same Charles Manson who 13 years later would make headlines in the bizarre and heinous series of killings known as the Tate-LaBianca murders. Now, after hundreds of jailhouse interviews conducted since 1979, Emmons carries the "as told to" credit on the cover of "Manson in his Own Words" (Grove Press). For the record: Grove Press reports that Manson derives no financial or other benefit from the book's publication; all royalties go to Nuel Emmons.

IN MEMORIAM: The Jan. 19 publication date of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story" (Harper & Row, San Francisco) coincides with the second national observation of King's birthday. The book is King's own account of the Montgomery bus boycott.

WE STAND CORRECTED: Little Golden Books' billion-copy puppy is Poky , not Porky.

CHAMPAGNE IS IN ORDER: Two of Southern California's more distinctive independent bookstores, Fahrenheit 451 in Laguna Beach and George Sand Books in West Hollywood, celebrated their tenth anniversaries in October. Fahrenheit 451 is owned and operated by Lorraine Zimmerman; George Sand Books by Charlotte Gusay.

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