The Taser's Edge


For the last week(-ish), I have been powering through The Lord of the Rings…the entire Lord of the Rings.  Something about learning that those-in-the-know know that LOTR is not a trilogy of novels but a single, three-volume (and yet more confusingly, six-booked) novel made me think I should read it all at a go.  That’s been a good thing, for the most part, but it does sit a bit heavy in the stomach, as Meriadoc Brandybuck might say.

Add to this heaviness a job interview I had today.  For me, all job interviews sit heavily on the stomach, and prison chaplaincy is itself not the lightest of work.  Afterwards, to reinvigorate myself, Holly and I went out to lunch at the not-that-great Lime & Basil on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill.

And then, we went thrifting.  The woman at Pennies for Change was overjoyed to see me buying Philip Roth’s debut novel, Goodbye, Columbus (for which dude won the National Book Award at age 27, and which is actually not a novel but the title novella plus five short stories), and now I’m happy too.

I haven’t finished it yet, but on the 20th century male-coming-of-age-tale’s innocence to scandalousness spectrum, it falls not too far to the right of Catcher in the Rye and a good bit to the left of Martin Amis’ The Rachel Papers.

Goodbye, Columbus is also hilarious.  From a conversation between the main character, Neil, and his girlfriend’s mother, ellipses being Roth’s and the hyperlink being mine:

Mrs Patimkin asked immediately–and strategically it seemed–‘We’re all going to Temple Friday night.  Why don’t you come with us?  I mean, are you orthodox or conservative?’

I considered.  ‘Well, I haven’t gone in a long time…I sort of switch…’  I smiled.  ‘I’m just Jewish,’ I said well-meaningly, but that too sent Mrs Patimkin back to her Hadassah work.  Desperately I tried to think of something that would convince her I wasn’t an infidel.  Finally I asked: ‘Do you know Martin Buber’s work?’

‘Buber…Buber,’ she said, looking at her Hadassah list.  ‘Is he orthodox or conservative?’ she asked.

‘…He’s a philosopher.’

‘Is he reformed?’ she asked, piqued either at my evasiveness or at the possibility that Buber attended Friday night services without a hat, and Mrs. Buber had only one set of dishes in her kitchen.

‘Orthodox,’ I said faintly.

‘That’s very nice,’ she said.

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