Monday, February 12, 2007

Jews Love: Reading

I read about 3 books at a time. Right now the books that I'm carrying around are:

The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov
Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

I actually just finished Skinny Dip, which was pretty disappointing. The beginning had a great set-up, but there aren't really any surprises after the first few chapters, and I found myself impatient to be finished. I won't tell you any more because CJ is still reading it, and I think that he'd be irritated if I ruined the ending.

As you might recall, Harley gave me a copy of The Master and Margarita for Chanukkah. Or, in actuality, she told me on Chanukkah that she would be getting me the book, and handed it to me two weeks ago. I've been reading it on the subway, and I must say, I've never had as many strangers talk to me as while I've been holding this book.

Guy #1: You know, some of the images really stay with you.
Me: Excuse me?
Guy #1: I read that book 30 years ago, and some of the images, they just really stick in your head. Like of the cat, smoking a cigar and holding a gun.
Me: (I'm about 10 pages in) Hm. Interesting. A friend gave me the book, saying that it is her favorite.
Guy #1: Your friend is really f*ed up.

Guy #2: (stares at me in an unnerving way)
Me: Yes?
Guy #2: I was just checking what book you were reading.
Me: (holding up the cover so that he can see it) Ok.

Sarah (spying the book): You know that is every Russian's favorite novel?
Me: It says on the back that some of the idioms have worked their way into popular culture, and the Russian language.

Bud Parr of Metaxu Cafe posted a "top 10 books" list which includes The Master. Vanessa Gebbie has a dissection of the book on her blog, which contains some plot spoilers. She, like myself, had some trouble about halfway through the book. I think that I might just not love Russian novels. I didn't like Crime and Punishment, nor Anna Karenina. Although to be fair I read a compilation of Chekhov's work during a family vacation in Australia, and really enjoyed it. His wry sense of humor (as found in "The Harmfulness of Tobacco" and "The Proposal") and irony really spoke to my rather twisted 16-year-old self. However, I think that I'll stick to the Brits, I much prefer them.

Also, as a halfhearted salve to my conscience for not really looking at the opinions of other Jews (but The Master has biblical themes, isn't that enough?):

Phoebe of WhatWouldPhoebeDo is a grad student, and therefore reads
ShamirPower of Jewschool claims that "smart Jews read Zeek" (I would like to see some empirical evidence of that)
Nextbook. 'nuff said
Rootietoot of Better Living Through Chemistry is reading My Name is Asher Lev, despite not being Jewish (not that I think one needs to be Jewish to read works by Jewish authors)
Danny Miller of Jew Eat Yet has a son who is reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Does it make me a bad Jew if I've neither read that, nor seen Schindler's List?


Sherbs said...


I don't consider you a bad person thatypu haven't read the Diary of Anne Frank. I'm worse--I was SUPPOSED to read it in 7th grade and didn't. No idea why. Oops.

I also love to read. And I love the NYPL which lets you read for free (well, for taxes, but for free!)

Sarah said...

I never read the Diary of Anne Frank, either. My mom tried to read it to me when I was maybe 13, but she couldn't stop crying after the first page. If I remember correctly, there's some stuff in it about boys and puberty and stuff, which I thought was yucky. Or at least, I didn't want my mom reading to me about it.

I have, however, been to the Anne Frank house in Berlin, which is a great museum--it's one of the small museums that are now linked with the Judisches Museum Berlin.

Anonymous said...


I am envious of your ability to read three books at once. I can only read one book at a time. If I dare to pick up a second book, I will never finish the first one. I have to make book lists and be very strict about them.

The Rooster

babytyrone said...

I think that instead of reading The Diary of Anne Frank everyone should be reading Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer. Whatever you think of Roth and his work, this important (and short) novel effectively demonstrates why the impulse to use books like Anne Frank's to talk about the Holocaust is a bastardization of the honor we owe to history and the dead, and why creating the Anne Frank-mythos was about the most damaging thing we could have done to the memory of those who were so tragically lost. Seriously, we should be teaching it in grade school.