Tuesday 13 May 2008

I can't even think of a title for this post

I keep trying to write a post about Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, which I finished over the weekend, but I don't know how to start. I make a lot of semi-witty, pseudo-charming, and meta-intelligent (huh?) comments about most things I read, but I've got nothing funny or anything even approaching funny to apply to this book.

This is, honestly, one of the saddest books I've ever read, though it didn't come close to making me cry and it didn't make me unable to read it continuously. It just slowly sort of wore me down as Asher and his parents wore each other down trying to assert the dominance of their desires about what Asher's adult life would look like.

Spoiler Alert!
Asher is a young boy when the book begins, growing up in a very strict but loving and close-knit Hasidic Jewish family and community. He has already revealed a profound artistic talent and to the chagrin of his parents, an associated complete inability to put it aside in favour of anything they find important - including his religious studies.

He's born to be an artist but painting and drawing have no place in his parents', but especially his father's, plans for him and so the novel ends up reading like one long series of painful clashes between Asher and his parents as his gift and his desire to immerse himself in his gift develop.

I won't reveal too much more, but eventually Asher creates some art that truly mortifies his parents and his community and he's literally banished.

There's a sequel to this novel called The Gift of Asher Lev and I really want to read it because this wasn't just a sad book - it was also remarkably beautiful and I won't even qualify that vague and soppy statement or make a joke about it. My Name is Asher Lev was straight up a beautiful book.

But I don't know if I'm up for being ground down and damaged by a fictional character's parents or family or community and their desires again any time soon. You'll understand why I chose my current uber-fluffy read when I finish it and post about it.

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