Amy Blooms stories blossom on stage

For a writer of delicate fiction, Amy Bloom seems to wind up on the stage a lot.

One of her stories was turned into an opera. Another was adapted for a Seattle-based theatre troupe. Now, three of her best short stories will make it to the local stage in a new Word for Word production, “Three Blooms.”

Word for Word is the celebrated San Francisco company renowned for transforming works of fiction into fully realized stage pieces, preserving every comma, colon and syllable of the author’s original.

That’s fine with Bloom, who’s been honored frequently over the years for her carefully wrought prose. “I’m always grateful when people want to stage the work,” she says. “It’s moving and gratifying to see these things have another life.”

“Three Blooms” pulls three linked stories from her 1993 collection, “Come to Me.” The three, “Hyacinths,” “The Sight of You” and “Silver Water,” recount a multigenerational saga about a Jewish family moving from the Canadian plains to Minnesota. Along the way, passion and betrayal threaten to rip the family apart.

“Each story represents a different point of view,” says Bloom. “In ‘Hyacinth,’ the boy’s mother is Jewish, but she dies when he’s young. Later, he’s raised by a Jewish aunt and uncle, which takes his life on a very different turn. When he marries his non-Jewish wife, that’s a thread running through the family life.”

While the Jewish subtext is present and accounted for in “Three Blooms,” Bloom doesn’t like to define herself as a Jewish writer.

She grew up in a Jewish household in Great Neck, Long Island. Though her family was not observant, she quickly points out that “you didn’t have to do a lot” to be Jewish in Great Neck.

She studied Yiddish for a while in a Sholem Aleichem day school, but quit because “it bored the pants off me,” something she regrets now.

“I’m not Philip Roth,” she says, “and I’m not Cynthia Ozick, both writers for whom Judaism has been a central theme. If people are interested in the role Judaism plays in my work, then I’m delighted, but that doesn’t describe my work.”

So what does?

How about “wickedly knowing,” as the London Times once wrote of her, “with the sort of perfectly paced writing which can blow the reader away with the tiniest detail.” The New Yorker once wrote that “Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books.”

Not bad for a woman who turned to writing as a second career at age 34 after maintaining a psychotherapy practice for many years. Though she has largely phased out her practice, she still sees the occasional patient, which she says makes her a better writer.

“The practice of listening and paying attention has helped me as a writer,” says Bloom, “but [therapy] is not a job you can phone in.”

So for most of the last decade, it’s been the writer’s life for her. The Connecticut-based Bloom is the author of the novel “Love Invents Us,” and two collections of stories: “Come to Me,” nominated for a National Book Award, and “A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You,” nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Being bisexual, she has a natural affinity for the subject. As for San Francisco’s recent revolution in gay marriage, the writer has strong opinions.

“It seems to me the crusade against gay marriage is just good old-fashioned gay bashing,” she says. “I’ve never heard of anyone in a happy heterosexual relationship feel threatened by it.”

Unfortunately, Bloom will not be in San Francisco anytime soon, either for a gay wedding or to see “Three Blooms” on stage, though she says she will be here in spirit.

And with a novel, a screenplay and many more short stories all on deck, Bloom is eager to move ahead, no matter what direction her work takes her.

“People put you on whatever shelf that suits them,” she says, “but I never met a writer who was unhappy about being on a shelf that says ‘writer.'”

Word for Word stages “Three Blooms” by Amy Bloom, through Sunday, March 21, at Magic Theatre, Northside Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Tickets: $27 (Wednesdays are pay-what-you-can). Information: (415) 437-6775, or www.zspace.org.

pine-dan
Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.