Well, maybe not Madonna's, but it seems like most every other major newspaper's or magazine's critic absolutely loved this little gem of a novel. It's an "American Library Association Notable Book," and I believe it was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. How's that for pedigree? *rolls eyes* Even better than Madonna!
*sighs* Sometimes I wonder where I find myself these things, I really do. Stollman, Aryeh Lev. The Far Euphrates. New York: Riverhead Books, 1997.Summary
: Canadian Jewish boy Aryeh Alexander grows up torn between his guilt-ridden mother and his spiritually-indecisive father. A somewhat less than happy medium, being gay is the least of his problems; after some painful and though at times interesting revelations about the people close to him, Alexander is able to find a measure of spiritual happiness.Comments
: Cross the post-Holocaust novel with the spiritual awakening novel with the gay boy growing up novel, and this is what you get. About the only thing that kept me plugging away at this book was its luminescent prose--which honest to God read like a psalm most of the time. The author was very, very good at not saying more than was necessary but still making everything abundantly clear. Oh, and I liked the bit about how, at the end, we discover that the twins were actually twin BOYS, and that the "maiden aunt" had actually suffered *coughs* certain genital mutilations that made it impossible for him to pass as male. Given that we know from the beginning concerning the mother's fears that the boy's gonna turn out gay, Hannalore's sex is the one big secret of the book (though that secret was elegantly foreshadowed). It mirrors the larger theme of the novel--that where we belong is wholly dependent upon what we make of our situation. I'm sure some readers will be fascinated by the freeform mixture of Kabbalist spirituality and scientific inquiry, but frankly I find that load of metaphysical maundering to be an indulgent waste of time. Stollman bit off a lot of fascinating material; reading this novel you'll feel like he's got you mouth-to-mouth and force-feeding it all down your throat. At least I could empathize with the themes of alienation and dislocation...interesting conflation of the Jewish diaspora with the exclusion of the sexual deviant there. Notes
: hardcover, 2nd printing, out-of-print; trade paperback edition availableRating
- Quite beautifully-written, but unless you're very spiritual or very Jewish (or a wannabe Kabbalist a la Madonna), you'll probably be unspeakably bored.