Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Suffering for Art

I wish I had more to say, but I am STILL suffering through The Land of Painted CavesIt just goes on and on.  I can't say nothing is happening anymore (at page 568), but it's not much.  And honestly, when someone mentions Wymez, Ayla should not say, "You mean the flint-knapper Jondalar so admires?"  He was almost her father-in-law!  There's no, "wait, which Wymez was that?"  Not even a little.  Grr.

But I'm also reading Hush, by Eishes Chayil.  It's a really fascinating combination between an inside look at the life of Chassidic Jews in New York and more general "that can't happen in our community" story of secrets and their fallout.  The first half of the book is an elegant and tense combination of the two.  The last part is a bit less compelling, since it's shifted from a growing up and coming of age story to something both more painful and awkward; the point where innocence begins to look like ignorance.

This isn't usually something that impresses me, but the author of this book, Eishes Chayil, has really impressed me.  The name is a pesudonym, meaning "Woman of Valor."  She wrote the book in her twenties, and though I can't tell from the afterword, I think it's possible that she's still living in her community.  Whether she is or not, the challenge of learning to believe something that you have been taught not to believe in every way for your whole life--without even the standard American acclimation to provide a counter-view (can you imagine living in New York City and never having heard of Oprah?--takes a presence of mind and strength of character that I can hardly imagine.  In many ways, it's a fascinating book.

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