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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Do you suppose this one has Madonna's Seal of Approval(tm)? 
3rd-Nov-2005 10:36 pm
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 available
Rating: 6.5/10 - 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.
4th-Nov-2005 04:36 am (UTC)
Myeh...The Limits of Pleasure by Daniel Jaffe is better.
and you know how I despise old man on young man smex
4th-Nov-2005 10:49 pm (UTC)
Is it just me or are a lot of gay novels about Jewish and gay men? There is almost a stress on the increased alienation of being both. Either that or the main character's from the southern states and from a Christian family.
4th-Nov-2005 11:02 pm (UTC)
Because the average Nor-easter Wonder-Bread-Fag doesn't discuss his gayness in fic. He reserves the right to appear in stories penned by Asian, Jewish, Hispanic, or African American men, and only in the 'white ghey with Southern-Baptists upbringings and understanding momma's' jello mold.
Of course I'm likely wrong-but that's nothing new. ^_^
5th-Nov-2005 02:28 am (UTC)
Well, sometimes--and it so happens that I've been reading more than one Jewish author lately. But there are plenty of novels by pure white bread as well. And there is even some Arab gay fiction available in English that I hope to get around to someday, come to think of it.
5th-Nov-2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
It's not just your reviews, but a lot of gay novels recced on Amazon and a few on the Lambda awards site are about Jewish characters and/or southern characters. It's a curious thing.
5th-Nov-2005 12:42 pm (UTC)
*points to new review* Adam is a New York Jew, and Steve is a reformed Southern (from Texas) redneck. The author himself is the latter.

I think you see New York Jews a lot in gay fiction because they are a fixture of the NYC culture, and many of these authors live in NYC and set their novels there. Since many of them are non-Jewish white men, it makes their characters more interesting. Southern writers often like to write about themselves; there's a tradition of that in Southern literature.

There is also plenty of gay literature fixed to the West coast--and there you get, oh, more Latinos, Asians, and lots of surfer dudes. I tend not to read as much of that because I've never been West, and it's more difficult for me to empathize.

When it's set in NYC, I can tell you if the portrayal is genuine and unforced or just a gimmick. (It felt a bit forced in Adam & Steve, especially with the post-9/11 sap, which was another reason I didn't like the book.)
5th-Nov-2005 01:01 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining it.
*munches on donut*
5th-Nov-2005 01:35 pm (UTC)
*munches on donut*

Glad to "see" that you're eating! ^__^
5th-Nov-2005 01:51 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure honey glazed donuts count as food^^ But I woke up pretty hungry today.
5th-Nov-2005 01:52 pm (UTC)
*laughs* But they're a good number of calories, and give how you said you weren't eating well before, lots of calories are good, too. ^_~
29th-Nov-2005 11:29 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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