Save a Writer–Buy a Book

Haim Watzman “It’s a very ugly time in American publishing,” my agent wrote to me. I had just received my semiannual statement from my publisher, which informed me that a total of 716 paperback copies of Company C: An American’s Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel were sold in the year after that edition came … Read more Save a Writer–Buy a Book

The People of the Insufficient Library Books

Haim Watzman

“Israelis buy so many books!” an acquaintance told me in wonder and appreciation during my recent trips to the U.S.

“Yes, but don’t be overly impressed,” I cautioned. “The main reason is that we have a lousy public library system.”

Ironically, the libraries of the country of the People of the Book are small, under-funded, and under-stocked. The Baka neighborhood library is a typical example. It’s got a dedicated and helpful staff and a decent collection of children’s books, but if you’re an adult, the chances of finding what you want in decent condition are pretty small.

In fact, when I stopped by yesterday morning, it was my first visit since my kids outgrew the children’s book section several years ago. I was looking for two new releases-Amir Guttfreund’s new novel Bishvila Giborim Afim and Anita Shapira’s new biography of Zionist literary and spiritual guru Yosef Haim Brenner. The librarian told me that the books I was seeking were on order but hadn’t arrived yet. Best to come in on a Sunday-that’s when the new books come in and get snatched up, she said.

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Licht Observed: Evan Fallenberg’s “Light Fell”

Haim Watzman

Joseph Licht, a religious Israeli with a devoted wife, five young sons, and a budding academic career attends a Torah class in Jerusalem given by a young rabbinic prodigy. The two men fall in love and conduct a passionate affair, leading Joseph to abandon his family and his religion—on the same day that his lover commits suicide. Two decades later, on his fiftieth birthday, Joseph invites his five grown sons to spend with him a Shabbat of celebration and reconciliation.

In Light Fell, Evan Fallenberg fluently takes on a tough subject—not just father-son relationships to the fifth power, not just father-son estrangement over many long years, but also father-son relationships sacrificed to love, and love of kind that breaks the most fundamental of his family’s implicit covenants and explicit taboos.

Joseph seeks to reconnect with his sons both to explain to them why he left them and to urge them to learn the lesson he learned. He had been living a lie, he tells them, and had no choice but to be true to himself. He sees that his sons, too, are avoiding, each in his own way, important decisions about who they are and what they must do with their lives, and he wants them, too, to know and follow the truth about themselves.

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