Monday, April 25, 2011

Kaddish and crime fiction

The book opens like this:
"Everything struck hard."
and continues like this:
"The door slamming behind me in the black car. The shovel stabbing the mound of soil. The wooden box hitting the floor of the pit."
Tell me that first sentence, from its substance to its abrupt staccato rhythm, doesn't scream hard-boiled, and not just hard-boiled, but good hard-boiled. Maybe that's why a review quoted on the book's cover calls it "A detective story of the spirit."

But the book is Leon Wieseltier's Kaddish, a meditation on and investigation of the Jewish prayer of mourning.

(Go here for a graveside invocation of the Kaddish and crime fiction at a memorial for David Goodis. )

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

Labels: , ,

17 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

I remember when this book came out. It looked interesting. I've been invited to sit shiva a couple of times, and have found it a nice way to celebrate the person who had died.

But yeah, that is a hardboiled opening if ever there was one.

April 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Pure chance I should happen to glance at the book, too. Or was it?

Shiva is a great time to break out bagels, cream cheese, and lox. But then, any time is a great time to break out bagels, cream cheese and lox.

After that hard-boiled opening, it will be interesting to see if the book suggests further thoughts about or parallels with how crime fiction deals with death and loss.

April 26, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Nice opening.

And oh yes, bagels with cream cheese and lox. Any time, actually.

April 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I do seem to be getting a bit bagel-obsessed, don't I? But if loving bagels is wrong, I don't want to be right.

April 26, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Bagels are a right! Didn't you know that?

It's never wrong to want bagels, cream cheese and lox.

I have to say that some friends years ago seriously questioned the cream cheese with the lox; "dairy and fish together?" Ugh, they said. They could not fathom it.

However, for those of us who are used to it, it's delicious. For those of us trying to cut down on cream cheese, lox and bagels -- if they're fresh and from a good store -- are delicious anyway.

And don't get me started on whitefish salad and fresh bagels; delicious! A friend who moved to LA seriously misses this.

April 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

You remind me that when Noah's Bagels first hit town they had whitefish as well as varying degrees of lox. They seem to have stopped.

Like everything else in the corporate world, they have in the end been dumbed down.

April 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was never big on lox, to tell you both the truth. Butter, cream cheese, or butter and cream cheese were my preferred toppings until I discovered whitefish salad after college. I like whitefish salad, but a real Montreal bagel does not require it.

If Leon Wieseltier's opening is the hard-boiled side of deah observances, bagels and cream cheese at shiva is the cozy.

Seana: Has Noah's eliminated whitefish, lox, or both?

April 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Well, I don't know if I can speak authoritatively on the subject, but they seem to have streamlined the whole thing here. You used to be able to buy a whole variety of lox and whitefish to add to your to go bag. But now, though you can get lox and bagles on site, that seems to be about it. It was good at first, but it's become a kind of creepy place, quite frankly. I was just looking on a review site, and there was basically no praise.

April 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hm, I'm not sure I had ever seen "creepy" and "bagels" in the same paragraph.

April 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Yeah, the bagels are still good, it's just the corporate mentality that you get a nasty whiff of. Or who knows, maybe it's just the local management.

April 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

How does that corporate mentality manifest itself? Do the order-takers say, "Would you like some cream cheese today?" Does the store lay on the moral superiority, rigid corporate control, and high prices of a Starbucks?

Do the whitefish salad and lox come from fish with transparent heads?

April 27, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Truthfully, not to be a traitor to my relatives, but I do like good butter on a bagel or a bialy. I do not require cream cheese or lox, although I've gotten to like lox alone with bagels (with iced coffee).

Sitting down with a good book, tea and a warm, fresh bialy with butter is a heavenly moment.

Now, this may be true also with a Montreal bagel, but I may never know that.

On a serious note, if one wants to take a crack at reading Chandler, where does one start? Last year, this site got me to read Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon," and "The Thin Man."

This year I'm trying Chandler. Several people have recommended "The Big Sleep," as a favorite novel. Is that a good starter book?

April 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Kathy, I'd be interested in the answer to that one too.

April 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, butter with a bagel would fit well within the Montreal tradition. I probably come closer to heterodoxy with my indiference to lox.

The Big Sleep is a good place to start with Chandler novels. So is The Long Goodbye. I've read those two plus the The Little Sister recently, and The Little Sister is too much of Chandler's personal gripes about Los Angeles.

You might also try short stories by both Chandler and Hammett.

April 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seans, do you mean you'd be interested in the answer to whether The Big Sleep is a good place to start with Chandler, or whether a Montreal bagel goes well with butter?

April 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I assume all bagels go well with butter.

No, I meant Chandler. I've been accumulating a little stack of them, but wasn't sure if it would be better to start with a lesser known one. I think I'll start with the Big Sleep.

The problem for me in getting started on Chandler is that having seen several movie versions of his work, I feel like I know the books already. But obviously, I don't.

April 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm no Chandler expert, but I think the consensus is probably a reliable guide in this matter. The consensus, I think, is that The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are his two best novels.

Assumed familiarity based on movie version is probably a case with many people who read Chandler. It is, or was, with me. I saw The Big Sleep before I ever read it. Chandler is such a cultural presence that one knows him before one reads him.

April 27, 2011  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home