Friday, March 21, 2003

Book Review: With all My Heart With all my Soul

If it weren't so awful, With all My Heart With all my Soul might not be a bad novel. but is is, so it isn't. B. D. Da'ehu (which is an obvious pseudonym which stands for Bechol Deracheha Da'ehu `in all your ways know Him" see p.111) made an attempt at explicating "authentic" Orthodox Judaism and the passion it entails. Unfortunately he was not up to the task. It is clear that the author is angry that most people's views of Orthodoxy come from writers who are not familiar with it. That is true, but that is no excuse to write a bad novel.

It is basically a story about a Talmud prodigy and a WASP who fall in love with each other. Unfortunately because of her lack of conviction she cannot become Jewish. Her inability to believe is the central focus of the book. Why Josh (the protagonist) believes and can't communicate why, is completely beyond me. The woman is all impressed by the rationality of it all, but does not believe. It makes little sense.

The author really takes a lot of time to spout a few divrei Torah, and some other offbeat beliefs about Judaism, and claim that it is really the only authentic view. He is slightly nuts.

The story has more real flaws than I really want to enumerate here. But I will start anyway, and I leave the trashing to someone else.

First, the author has about an eighth grade understanding of Philosophy, religion, Jewish Philosophy, and literature. The Author quotes a book every now and then, but it all sounds canned, like he got it out of some secondary source on Sartre. He never struggled with philosophy the way he wants us to believe he struggled with a sugya of Talmud.

Second, the author believes every one of the WASP stereotypes imagined. (see eg p 224) He has little clue how a non-yeshiva person thinks. He believes everything that the yeshiva taught him about the outside world is true. He is so very off. He does not understand the difference between the general social mileu of the south Bronx and Princeton University. It is awful.

The author even got Judaism wrong from time to time.

The whole plot is implausible in that an intelligent thinking person can be won over with 3rd rate pilpul. It is embarassing.

The plot goes too quickly. They chat, they fall in love, they are thinking about marraige? Huh? I blinked, and missed it. No one thinks like this, execpt people in Yeshiva. It is hard to suspend belief when the whole thing is so artificial. The dialogue, like the plot is contrived and fake. All the pseudo-witty banter is stupid. It is not nearly as clever as the author must believes it is.

I wish that someone would get this genera right. This book does not.