Writing a blog about a novel you spent years working on feels a little strange, as any discussion of a writer’s work by the writer seems to have inherent problems, mostly relating to the impossibility of objectivity and further, translation.
Since writers, like actors, routinely take on the persona of their characters, not for reasons of performance, but rather of convenience, looking back at the experience is complicated because the writer who is writing is not there anymore. And yet, I am still she.
Ah, well. Enough philosophy. What would one of my favorite characters, Sherlock Holmes, have done? People who know me seem surprised that The Book of Zev is what I came up with. Maybe it’s because it’s a political thriller about two people—of all things a kosher chef and a cab driver at that—who stop a terrorist.
“I didn’t know you were into politics.” That’s one of the first things friends have said to me. I’m not.
“I didn’t know you were religious.” That’s the second thing—and I’m not.
“I didn’t know you cooked,” is the third thing they say. And I do.
“Is this autobiographical?” Duh! Why is this of any concern? Of course some of it is: The old adage that you “must write what you know” is true—at least at the starting point. Any author writing on a topic about humans, even in space, must start with himself or herself, unless of course, they are not human. I am not my main character, though we are connected.
That having been said, I am willing to get to cases. Let’s talk about my heroine, The Book of Zev’s Sarah, and get her opinions.
Sarah would answer the question, “Are you into politics?” as follows: “I am not into war of any kind. I believe in the law of Instant Karma, the version that posits that what you give comes back, right away, for better or for worse. When the state of Israel was created, the Israelis did not set the example they should have by acting in a merciful way for the benefit of everyone involved. Instead they acted as badly as their persecutors. When God made the Jews his chosen, it was not a blessing, but rather a curse. It meant that we were being commanded to set an example through our correct behavior for the rest of the world to follow. The history of the state of Israel is hardly something to be admired and emulated. (This is not to say I don’t support the right to us having our own country, and that I am not proud that Israel won. I am objecting to the subsequent management of the country.) What would I have done differently? Plenty, and with the intention to be as fair and ethical to everyone as possible. I am no political expert, but I do have the right to speak out as a human being who would like to see the end of all suffering. I don’t feel that I know everything, but I am born a Jew that sees non-Jews, even Palestinians, as human beings. Somewhere there must be a place where things are done properly, with mercy and kindness. What can be seen can be achieved.”
And her answer on being religious: “I try to live a good life and be an example by being honest, feeding the poor whenever I can, trying not to lie, cheat, or steal. I know I am very flawed but hope the good in me outweighs the bad. I have suffered a lot in my life, and hope there is some reason for it. I feel angry at the religious aspect of Judaism because it places women in a horrible secondary position, and then denies it. Why should I be bound by my biology to be in the supporting role as wife, mother, and helper? I am my own boss; I would never want to be in a position where I had to give my power away to some man. God is another story. I may be angry at him, but am glad someone is in charge.”
On cooking: “Now this is my religion! Here you can feel a total connection to others without fear of rejection or judgment. As a child, growing up in a Conservative Jewish family, I saw how powerless women were unless they were desired. I do not mean necessarily romantically, but for other things they offered—like cooking. My grandfather, who was a hard, critical man, never failed to compliment my grandmother on how delicious the food always was. It seemed the best way to have a say in things—to cook. When I was older, I was always shy, but cooking always made me friends. Cooking is like having a close friend with you all of the time.”
Stay tuned for more musings.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Marilyn Horowitz