Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

I cannot tell whether I hated this book, could just barely bear it, or what.

I was consumed by the idea that it had won the Booker Prize, and really there was something about the studied conversational language that carried me forward through to the end. There were painful, truthful elements about pain, infidelity and lifetime friendships that rang true across the plaza like a church bell. Still, I think maybe it was abysmal.


But I am a Jewish professional, as a Deputy Director of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and so I felt some sense of obligation to get to the end and more fully grasp over what the author was puzzling.


A few quotes made me want to fold down the page and refer to them later:

  • [Parenthetically the author writes,] “(he would have said his faith but Finkler was Finkler and Finkler had no faith)”
    p. 56

  • ‘So this museum…’ Finkler said, when the table was cleared. Hephzibah inclined her head on his direction. ‘…don’t we have enough of them already?’ ‘Museums in general you mean?’ ‘Jewish museums. Everywhere you go now, every town, every shtetl, you find a Holocaust museum. Do we need a Holocaust museum in Stevenage or Letchworth’
    p. 179 (Funny to think that this book I had such trouble with, kinda really was about a Jewish museum…ugh.)

  • It was so lovely, bathing in the lucidities of a thinker's preliminary thoughts…With Maimonides he was downing by the end of the first sentence.

    ‘Some have been of opinion,’ Maimonides began, ‘that by the Hebrew zelem, the shape and the figure of a thing is to be understood, and this explanation led men to believe in the corporeality [of the Divine Being]: for they thought that the words “Let us make man in our zelem” (Gen i.26), implied that God had the form of a human being, i.e., that He had figure and shape, and that consequently, He was corporeal.’ Of themselves, Treslove believed he might have made some headway, with these refined distinctions relating to the appearance, or not, of the divine…at that point he was among the mystics and the dreamers. …This religion is too old for me, Treslove thought. He felt like a child lost in a dark forest of decrepit lucubrations.
    p. 196 (Does this speak in an interesting way to the distinction of Jewish learning, and the sometimes growing up Jewish feeling?...oh, essentialism: it is a dangerous road…)

  • He stayed up late watching television, trying t stay away from his computer. Enough with his poker. But poker served a purpose. T.S. Eliot told Auden that the reason he played patience night after night was that it was the nearest thing to being dead. Patience, poker…What difference?
    p. 275

    (Oh, how I love T.S. Eliot...and Auden.)
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