Steven Jay Griffel’s debut novel, Forty Years Later, became an Amazon eBook #1 Bestseller. Released in 2009, just as the Baby Boomer generation was beginning to sense its own mortality, the novel spoke of missed opportunities, promises made and what might have been. Griffel masterfully captured a Woodstock retrospective of feelings as his generation started to reexamine their lives.

To commemorate the 10th Anniversary of publication, Forty Years Later was revised by the author and re-released as both an eBook and a paperback last August. Stay Thirsty Magazine was pleased to invite Steven Jay Griffel to participate in our One Hundred Words project to celebrate the continuing relevance of his novel.

STAY THIRSTY: Forty years later.

STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: Ever since the publication of my novel—ten years ago—I seem to attract this phrase like a lightning rod. I find it everywhere, or it finds me. I’ve come across the words forty years later in so many varied contexts that the phrase has taken on—in my mind—a manifold meaning way beyond the literal intent I had in mind when I chose the phrase as the title for my book. For me, the phrase now incites feelings of nostalgia and perspective that lead me to consider the long arc of my life and the choices I’ve made. 

STAY THIRSTY: Middle age.

STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: When I was much younger, middle age conjured thoughts of a living purgatory: a phase of life too old to enjoy the thrills of youth, too fraught with heavy responsibility to enjoy the present … a fading twilight … a weigh station before crippling disease and mental feebleness. Funny how the years alter perspective. Now 66, I might generously refer to myself as late middle age … or as a young senior … or simply refuse to play the numbers game and enjoy my golden years in which experience and relatively good health combine for a mature and rewarding life.


STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: We love because we have no choice, because love cannot be denied. Sometimes we love the wrong person or for the wrong reasons. But at its best, love is a passionate commitment with no expectation of measurable recompense…. It is love, not money, that makes the world go ‘round. It is love that greases the skids of life’s success…. Love, in all its crazy manifestations, is at the heart of each of my novels. My best-known character, David Grossman, learns that love changes over time; that it must be nurtured and renewed in order to withstand life’s challenges and temptations.  


STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: Betrayal is perhaps the most heinous of all human actions. Betrayal implies an intentional, self-serving break of trust … the destruction of a confidence … the shredding of a loyalty. But the devil is in the details. Benedict Arnold felt himself justified—even positively motivated—to betray his country…. Husbands and wives who commit adultery … tormented souls who commit regicide, fratricide, parricide … all have exculpatory reasons. It is the job of the novelist to discover root causes. In cases of betrayal, the surface story, the banal forensics, rarely reveal the inciting truth. A good novelist is a truth-seeker.   


STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: In the late afternoon, after I’ve completed the first part of my day’s work, I often accompany my midday meal with an hour of mindless television. I usually watch an episode of Law & Order, NCIS, Chicago PD, or some other action show in which the good guys and bad guys are clearly identified, and the latter get their asses kicked in the last two minutes. In a world that sometimes seems meaningless, TV allegories of Good and Evil—in which the evil-doers are always whupped—are satisfying entertainment. There’s a lot to be said for revenge, even if scripted.

STAY THIRSTY: Redemption.

STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: Stories of redemption always involve a redeeming agency and an alleged guilty party. Generally, I find stories of redemption more satisfying than stories of revenge. Revenge stories are usually plot-based and action heavy, while stories of redemption usually focus on character development. A character’s sense of guilt can be redeemed by a public pronouncement … a court decree … someone’s revised opinion … or by a revised self-assessment—in which case, redeemer and redeemed are one and the same. If grace is something proffered by God or his ministers, redemption is in the hands of humans bending to the light.

STAY THIRSTY: Baby boomers.

STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: When we were young, we never knew we would one day be referred to as baby boomers—not that it would have made any difference. We had other labels to describe our identity and sense of self. For example: American, Jew, New Yorker, Bronx, sports fan, reader, is how I saw myself in the years before my bar mitzvah. I was probably in my early thirties when I first heard of “baby boomers.” I like the phrase, but I don’t find it particularly helpful, other than as a general description of the target audience for most of my early novels.

Steven Jay Griffel

STAY THIRSTY: Second chances.

STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: Everyone’s life is marked by regrets—and second chances are hard to come by. For sure, fate sometimes tosses us a bone, an opportunity for a do-over to make life right. Regrets and second chances are the main themes of my novel Forty Years Later, whose middle-aged and married protagonist reconnects with an alluring woman he has not seen in forty years. Not surprising, most of the book’s fans are baby boomers for whom a genie-like chance to change their fate is their secret wish. For those without a genie or smiling fate, I suggest they read Forty Years Later.

STAY THIRSTY: Catskill summer camp.

STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: I spent my Wonder Years summering with my family in a Jewish bungalow colony in New York’s Catskill Mountains. By day I attended camp; by night I roamed with a band of mischievous marauders. I cannot overstate the influence of this experience. It was the setting of my first love. It forever shaped my dreams and friendships. It became the stuff of my early novels. I cannot think of the first Moon landing or Woodstock without being transported back in time to this wondrous place. Faulkner had his Yoknapatawpha County. Garcia Marquez had his mythical Macondo. I have my Catskills.   

STAY THIRSTY: Woodstock.

STEVEN JAY GRIFFEL: For Winston Churchill, it was the Battle of Dunkirk. For Dwight. D. Eisenhower, the besieged beaches of Normandy. For me, it was Woodstock. This large grassy hill and natural amphitheater in upstate New York—owned by Max Yasgur, milk farmer—was the place that would test and define me. And I wasn’t even there in August, 1969, for the legendary concert…. I arrived forty years later, and by then so much had changed in the world and in my life. Without Normandy, Eisenhower might never have been elected president. Without Woodstock, I might never have become a successful, published author.


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.