All posts by thome2040

College librarian recently relocated near NYC from Buffalo. 2 unpublished novels to my credit, as well as numerous stories, several of which have been published in ezines. Have yet to break into print but have had encouraging responses from Prairie Schooner and Greywolf Press. Am currently shopping my manuscripts to agents and submitting my stories to small press literary magazines. Read about my working manuscript in my blog entry.

Book Review: “Judas” / by Amos Oz

I knew that Amos Oz was an Israeli writer, but that was about it, and I’d never read anything by him. On a recommendation (my therapist’s actually) I thought I’d give it a try, as I’d always had an interest in Judas, and am so glad I did. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an unequivocal masterpiece.

It is a novel of ideas (I think you’ll agree that’s rare enough these days) concerning the founding of the Jewish state, the relationship between Jesus and the Jews (and ultimately Judaism vs. Christianity), Judas and the Jews, Judas and Jesus, Arabs and Jews, discussed in unconventional ways, presenting very different (and extremely interesting) perspectives that deviate greatly from the conventional narrative propounded by politicians and religious leaders alike.

Set in 1959 Israel, the story concerns a young Israeli graduate student at a  crossroad in his life: his girlfriend has just left him and married a former boyfriend; he’s dropped out of graduate school mainly because reversals in his family fortunes didn’t allow him to continue, but even then he was stalled on his thesis on Jewish views of Jesus and Christian views of Judas.

Shmuel Ash, the main protagonist, answers an ad seeking a companion for an elderly invalid male. His first name, Shmuel, couldn’t help but bring to mind the prominent place of the schlemiel in Jewish literature, whether Oz intended this or not. He thinks it will just be he and the old man at first but then discovers a much younger woman lives there, whose idea it was to place the ad. She (Atalia) is very mysterious and very beautiful, smelling of violets, and immediately captures Shmuel’s heart.

We gradually find out she is the daughter of one of Ben-Gurion’s arch rivals, the lone dissenting voice in the movement for a state of Israel, believing there could be a two-state solution with the Arabs. For this he was expelled from the Zionist executive committee and branded a “traitor.”

Naturally this interests Shmuel, who has been writing a thesis on the greatest traitor in history, and he spends long hours in the National Library delving into the history of that era. Unfortunately he can find no trace of his papers, no record of his speeches, and has to abandon this research also.

The old man he is taking care of is Atalia’s father-in-law, whose beloved son (Atalia’s husband) was killed in the 1948 war. Although he disagreed strongly with Atalia’s father’s views he invited him to live with him after his fall from grace. The old man comes to love Shmuel as a son during his three-month stay there, and gains Atalia’s grudging admiration also.

It seems Shmuel is the fourth of a succession of young male caretakers, all seduced by Altalia, who had a bit of Estella Havisham about her, then sent away. Things seem to be going differently for Shmuel even though all along he sees her as unattainable.

This is all I will say about the plot, aside from mentioning it has a perfectly ambiguous ending, hopefully it is enough to spark an interest in the book. As a minor spoiler alert I’ll just say there is an incredibly harrowing and graphic chapter devoted to Jesus’ crucifixion narrated by Judas, a real tour de force, which makes the book worth reading for this alone, although there is so much more.

There is not a lot of action, but the story moves apace and Oz tells it carefully and lovingly. As it  turns out, some of the subject matter is taken from the author’s life, as delineated in his 2004 memoir, “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” The book wrestles with the big topics of Jesus’ humanity, the basis of anti-Semitism and other prejudice, the hope for eventual peace in the Middle East, and love.

Originally published in 2014, this edition, translated from the Hebrew, was published in 2016, and was shortlisted for the Man Book International Prize in 2017. Oz is a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this book puts him over the top.

3 Poems / Tom Evans

Poem on a Flower

My flower was laden with dew,
so pink, so moist, and open;
Like lips that are parted in two,
her center, her tongue, was golden.

And crossed by green blades of grass,
formed in a triumphal arch;
Through which some great man could pass,
or some great army march.

The Anvil

Forging the malleable soul,
glint of future,
bellowing past;
Stoking the white hot coal,
’til it rings of truth
at last.

While the heart brings forth life,
red and rife.

The Journey

Longer days may be
when summer comes around,
but the little boy must journey
and has not reached the town.
When he is all grown
where will he be found?

The way is full of turnings
the stars have still not shown,
through winter’s blast
and summer’s burning
will he remain alone-
and never find his home?

American Pastoral / a poem by Tom Evans

Strangely,

the seemingly

disparate photographs

coalesce,

calling to mind

a childhood occurrence.

 

The photo of the

Abbey at Rievaulx

I’m looking at

looks very much

like the town

I grew up in.

I imagine the Cistercians

pacing the wooded grounds

in solemn solitude,

and suddenly recall

my neighbors

searching the woods

at the end of our street-

frantic-

like black ants

combing the ground for food,

trying to find the boy

lured there

by a monster.

 

I was there

when they found him

in his death cramp

in the snow.

It called to mind

the picture entitled

“Big Foot in death”

from the battlefield

at Wounded Knee.

 

 

 

 

 

“Hope Springs” / a poem by Tom Evans

A day in early March,

the melting snow running in rivulets

down a gully along Reist Street,

(next to the cemetery),

the steam rising off wet portions of the road

as the sun evaporated the water.

A harbinger of spring, it was a sight

we awaited each year after the landlocked winter.

Walking to church, we

lingered as long as we could,

almost expecting a tadpole to

emerge from the pebbled, silty bottom.

(Even if it meant being late for church

we wouldn’t have wanted to miss that.)

It was spring wasn’t it,

the street finally bared dry,

errant green shoots along the

bank ready to unfold,

a crocus poking up here and there-

anything could happen.

The water clear and cold,

scent of wet cement, wormy soil,

and warmth in the air-

anything seemed possible.

But it wasn’t to be, and turning away,

we began the wait for next year.

Confessions of a Neophyte / Stories by Tom Evans

FYI to anyone interested, I wanted to announce that I have gone the self-publishing route, using Kindle Direct Publishing. The above-titled collection contains 6 stories, 2 or 3 of which I’ve already posted here. My intention is to add more to the collection as they arrive. Disclaimer: there is a nominal fee of $1, but I’d be glad to send anyone free review copies if they’d like one. Just let me know. And if by a miracle anyone should actually decide to purchase a copy I’d appreciate it if you’d leave some comments or rate the book, as this will help move it up the ranks, and, believe me, it’ll need all the help it can get to do so. I’m still not sure how this all works but I believe you can find it if you search Amazon or Kindle under the title or author. If I find a more direct way to provide access I will post what I presume will be some sort of link here. The formatting isn’t that great but until I can get that figured out it looks much better in landscape. As always, thanks in advance for your response, etc. etc.

this link will show you a preview of the book: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B01M98NKOK&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_9Y5-xbD56BR5C

“Blues for Mississippi John Hurt” / a poem by Tom Evans

John Hurt walked down a dusty track

with a knapsack on his back;

Taking his time, whistling and singing,

he warn’t in no hurry.

He would pause, set down a spell,

to have a smoke and ruminate.

 

John took hisself some time off,

he was gone for a month or so.

It was good to be out in the open air, he felt,

kicking up the dust, listening to the insects humming.

He welcomed the breeze, he doffed his hat

to the liquid gold sun, to the railroad men,

in awe under the iron-blue sky.

 

He mopped his brow, rejoiced and continued on.

 

He thought about the boys back home, of the women,

yet nothing beat being out here alone:

‘A man’s got to roam, to roam,’

Got to walk his troubles away,

Got to keep walking down that lonesome road,

Till it takes him far away.’

©Tom Evans, 2016

“Grasshopper Karma” / a poem by Tom Evans

 Grasshopper Karma

I saw a grasshopper today for the first time

since I was a kid;

I was surprised as I hadn’t

ever given them another

thought in all that time;

I gave it its space, wary as I am

today of all insects.

We took them for granted back then,

seeing who could catch the most,

some bothered more than others by

the uncomfortable feeling their thrashing legs

and the bump their heads made in the palms of our hands,

though none would ever admit it.

Still jumping, trying to make their escape

as we cradled their taut bodies carefully

to finally put them in mason jars

(along with some grass, of course),

poking holes in the top of the jar lid

to let them breathe.

We watched them jump for a time

and joked about eating chocolate covered ones,

the coolness and smell of the grass,

the act of capturing them,

part of the woven fabric

of our summers.

I don’t remember if we left them to die

when we grew bored,

I’d like to think I didn’t but

I see so few today

I can’t help but think I did,

as I went on to become a man.

©Tom Evans, 2016