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“If your childhood is brutal, your adulthood becomes a daily attempt to recover: a quest for ecstasy and stability in recompense for their early absence.” So states the 30-year-old Ariel Zinsky, whose bachelor-like lifestyle belies the torturous youth he is still coming to grips with. As a boy, he struggles with the beatings themselves; as a grownup, he struggles with the world’s indifference to them. Zinsky the Obscure is his life story, a humorous chronicle of his search for a redemptive ecstasy through sex, an entrepreneurial sports obsession, and finally, the cathartic exercise of writing it all down. Fervently recounting both the comic delights and the frightening horrors of a life in which he feels – always – that he is not like all the rest, Zinsky survives the worst and relishes the best with idiosyncratic style, as his heartbreak turns into self-awareness and his suicidal ideation into self-regard. A vivid evocation of the all-consuming nature of lust and ambition—and the forces that drive them—Zinsky the Obscure is a novel of extraordinary zeal, range, and power. 

About the Author

Zinsky the Obscure is Ilan Mochari’s first novel. His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Keyh, Stymie, Oysters & Chocolate, and Ruthie’s Club. Another short story, “The Father I Knew,” was a finalist in a Glimmer Train competition. In 2009 he received a Literature Artist Fellowship grant from the Somerville Arts Council. Born in 1975 in New York City, Mochari currently lives in the Boston area, where he is drafting his next novel. He is a contributor to the MIT Sloan Management Review and the editor of Somerville Scout magazine. In the years when he was working on Zinsky the Obscure, he waited tables at several restaurants and freelanced for CFO, Fortune Small Business, and the fantasy sports site KFFL.com. Prior to that, he was a staff writer for Inc magazine. Ilan is a graduate of Yale University, where he studied under Harold Bloom and Kate Walbert. 

Ilan’s website

Reviews and Interviews

Booklist Online Exclusives, Newsletter #51, March 7, 2013

Kirkus: A literary bildungsroman

Somerville Writer Ilan Mochari Pens a Debut Novel Zinsky the Obscure

Interview in the Somerville (MA) News.

Review by Tony McMillan in DigBoston April 2013

Interview by Doug Holder - Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene Blog


“A terrific novel, whose pileup of emotional honesty is visceral and powerfully real -- just try to look away.” 

—Dara Horn, National Jewish Book Award winning author of In The Image, The World to Come, and All Other Nights, and two-time New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice selection

“Ariel Zinksy rides that fine line between hopeless romantic and hateful cynic, though never fully gives into either. He is full of the heartbreak, foibles, and generosity in all of us. Mochari does not shy away from the parts of love, both familial and romantic, that are brutal, nor the parts that make living worthwhile.” 

—Kim Freeman, author of Love American Style: Divorce and the American Novel

“With exuberant storytelling, Mochari builds a plausible bridge between child abuse and obsessive sports fandom.” 

—Virginia Vitzthum, author of I Love You, Let’s Meet and My Blind Date Went Blind

“In this effortlessly literary novel, Mochari gives full life to a man both self- involved and brilliantly self-aware.” 

—Nancy Bernhard, author of The Very Best Intentions

"A sports-crazed, self-abusing David Copperfield for our time, Zinsky is clear- eyed and comic about his unsung existence – and in that, fully worthy of escape from obscurity."

—Ron MacLean, author of Why The Long Face and Blue Winnetka Skies