books and excuses

I’m still not ready to pick up the threads from the comments on ‘just wondering’, and I logged on with the intent of effusing over a new book. But then Elizabeth’s comment makes me want to put the new book down and re-read Mists of Avalon. Sigh. Not enough hours in an evening. (Though Molly is pushing for Mists. More lap time.)

The new book is Disobedience by Naomi Alderman. I’m only 43 pages in, but it seems to be that perfect balance of light energetic prose, serious reflection on life and God, and sharp edgy humor. The central character is an orthodox Jew from London who runs away to New York to escape, and has to learn how to go home again after her father dies.

A fairly random sample:

I though of saying OK, he’s dead, but I never like the old sod anyway…

And then I thought of the garments that they would be dressing my father in: white linen with closed arms and legs… And I thought, in my father’s house, they would know what to do.

So, this is what you do, this is what I ought to be doing: the Jewish mourning ritual for close relatives… In the first week, you tear your clothes, you don’t cut your hair or wash in hot water and you cover your mirrors… You sit on a low stool and you don’t leave the house… and you don’t listen to music.

That is the first week. Then in the first thirty days, you can leave your house and wash, but you don’t listen to music or buy new clothes…
And at the end of the first year, they set the tombstone at the grave and you go, and you pray. … I could map out the whole of my next year, or next month. It’s supposed to make everything simpler.

Except that, for me, now, it makes nothing simpler. Because this stuff only works if everyone else knows what you’re doing. It works if you’re sitting on your low stool, in your torn clothes, and your friends and family come to visit… But I’m here, and I’m not that any more. And somehow it wouldn’t work to call up a friend and say, ‘I would now like to participate in the ancient Jewish grieving ritual. For this, I will need some volunteers.’

(I got so carried away with the books I nearly forgot the excuses. Probably no blog tomorrow since the electricity is due to be shut off for tree maintenance. A whole day without the computer. Blissful were it not for the amount of admin I should therefore be doing tonight.)

2 thoughts on “books and excuses”

  1. Sounds like a great book – trots off to add to insanely long to-read list! I recently re-read Chaim Potok’s The Chosen and remembered how extraordinary I find his books – his way of writing about Judaism, faith, God and going straight to the heart of the difficulties with in individual is in conflict with family and community. Great stuff.

  2. Ooh, I love Mists of Avalon. Read it many years ago and then made all my friends read it. Haven’t read it for years but now I will. Thanks for the reminder.

    I read some really good books by Naomi Ragan, I think, which were kind of modern Jewish fiction. They were good too.

    I’m collecting a little pile to take away on retreat in a week’s time. Thank goodness I’m taking the car!

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