Archive for September, 2013

I heard this last Monday, and it’s still in my head. Proceed with caution. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Here are the the lyrics and translation .

“The friendship, the love. The youth that came to an abrupt end…” Thinking about you, my brother.

May we all receive only good tidings. Shabbat Shalom.


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Note: Everyone has a different way of coping with the death of a loved one. Mine seems to be to take all the ways one after the other. I vary between wanting to pull a blanket over my head to almost feverish activity. Blog posts will be written in the latter mood. With the High Holidays approaching, this means that my posts will be even less regular than usual, and somewhat eclectic. Apologies in advance.

This trilogy (The Golden Compass/Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) follows the coming-of-age of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes against a backdrop of epic events: an apocalyptic war of the end of all the worlds, and a reenactment of Adam and Eve that is… different. To put it mildly,  G-d doesn’t come out looking so well. However, this takes second place to the richness of the whole story. The sheer depth of imagination in the trilogy is stunning, and deeply satisfying. Other worlds with strange people and beings are close enough to touch. Feelings are close enough to draw tears and laughter, as well as horror and pity. Most characters are full of depth and complexity. The language is hugely satisfying (say “the subtle knife” a few times and you’ll see what I mean 😉 ). This was a joy to read. This book is billed as a “Young Adults” novel, i.e. for teenagers. I think it’s excellent for adults as well. As a fantasy – epic trilogy: 5 stars.

This trilogy attracted a lot of criticism for its bashing of religions and Catholicism in particular, and even attracted some censorship (though the choice of censorship is completely odd to me. Some completely innocent passages about Lyra’s sexual awakening were censored in the North American version. Maybe they censored it in their sleep, I don’t know).  I found the Church bashing too heavy handed and simplistic. I’m not an expert on Christianity, but I doubt one of its tenets is not allowing people to fall in love. In addition, slogans are tossed around (“Heaven is empty”) with very flat explanations. All Church leaders are portrayed in a two dimensional and stereotypical way – the difference is marked when compared to all other characters. I think Hitler and Stalin etc. proved that humans don’t need religion to be cruel to each other, and thousands of saved Jewish orphans in the Holocaust can attest to the kindness of Christians. However, this book makes you think about how easy it is to use religion for bad ends, and how people allow themselves to be cruel if it’s “for a greater good”. Thus I consider it a good read for young adults, to provoke thought and not follow anyone blindly. I think the real “Yetzer Hara” is this yearning to refuse responsibility: “It wasn’t me, it was him!” or “I did it for him!”. It doesn’t matter if “him” is your brother, child, lover, sister, wife, husband, Priest, Rabbi, church, the party, etc. – this human craving leads to despicable actions. As a moral/religious story: Despite its flaws, and because of its thought provoking content, I give it 4 stars.

Age group: This should be given to children who have already passed puberty, otherwise some of the main plot points will simply sail over their heads. However, there is no explicit sexual detail of any kind (why they censored anything is beyond me).

Bottom line: Go read it.

* I linked each book separately, because for reasons that escape me all the omnibus versions are more expensive than buying each book separately. Go figure.

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