Novel Reactions: kaddish.com

After the first few chapters of kaddish.com, I did not know how to feel. I’d expected the book to tell the story of Larry’s misadventures over the 11-month mourning period for his father. So after the first part ended, and Larry came home, and that was that, I’d felt short-changed. I couldn’t make sense of it. Suddenly, Larry was Reb Shuli, teaching at the school. How? His (re)conversion from atheism felt rushed. What? Like it’s hard to convert your heart?

Eh, anyway, I read on. I’ve always been a fan of Nathan Englander’s writing, and I began to think that perhaps it may have been too easy or predictable for the story to have only been set over that period of time. Of course. We needed to make it all the way to a midlife crisis and see that some actions do have lasting consequences. And we needed to make up for our mistakes. What lengths do we go to make amends, and when do we call it a day?

Only remember, … if you don’t find what you need over there, in this life it’s permissible to forgive oneself too.

Nathan Englander, kaddish.com

No need to answer. I’ll just leave that here. Also, I haven’t come across a quote I liked that much in a while. I needed that.

Although the synopsis on the book jacket was a little misleading (i.e. the story was not about the 11-month mourning period, but then again, who told me it would be anyway?), the rest of the story flowed well. I liked the story. It was also funny in a different way… in an ‘omg no, don’t do that!’ kind of way. Man, what a character.

Short Bites: Peep Show

Another story in Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, “Peep Show” takes us on a reflective journey.

In a weak and impulsive moment, a man takes a detour into a strip club. He knows he shouldn’t, but, heck, we are all entitled to make our own mistakes, so let him God. The man buys five tokens even if he’d only intended to see one show. Right. Well, I don’t think the main character enjoyed the four other peep shows that followed, but I did.

As always, Nathan Englander provides us with a lot of detail that it’s easy to visualize the story, the peep show. The first one wasn’t very surprising, and I was wondering what on earth I was getting myself into, but then the four others that followed were out of this world, and I needed to see how it ended. I’m not sure I would ever want my own peep show, but from an outsider’s point of view, that was one hell of a show. I can appreciate.

Short Bites: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” (the title story of this compilation) is about the generation(s) of Jewish Americans that grew up after the holocaust. For the most part, they’d lived generally worry-free lives, with some members of the generation eventually moving “back” from the US to Israel.

Speaking of US and Israel, this story does touch on some differences in culture between those in the US and in Israel. While those difference may exist in the details, some things, such as love and family, are universal.

Nathan Eglander spent the first part of the story creating context and building out this little world. Yes, it can get a little specific, but this story focuses on the universal things—things that anyone regardless of race and religion can relate to. While you need to know of Anne Frank and of the holocaust for context, the question asked at the end of the day is quite universal: do you trust your neighbors?