Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction. Jewish Literature, Historical Fiction
Published by Wheatmark
This was given to me by the author for an honest review. Thank you!
Here is a book that I received for review, as I obviously stated above here. Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid these submissions unless it came from an author or publisher I was familiar with. Freese was actually a Leapfrog press guy in the contest and he almost won. Before this short story collection, he wrote a novel, a pretty long one. But what really made me want to read and review this was because of the topic. I had a feeling that it was going to be a lot different from the ones I read when I was younger, the ones that were a lot watered down compared to the actual, true events. Those books were Stones in Water and The Devils Arithmetic, and a few others that I can’t remember the names of at the moment.
We all know that novels that deal with a certain dehumanizing tragedy such as the Holocaust, which is what this short story collection was based on, will affect the reader emotionally or at least try to. Because war is usually when we toss aside any sort of human feelings to go through our destruction of not only the universe and others, but ourselves too.
That is what these stories are about. Written in a sort of cheeky humor, heavy self-loathing, and tears to be dried, these stories all chronicle what it feels like to be treated like trash and murdered inside and out, during the Holocaust. These stories are all narrated by Jewish characters who are surviving or survived. The Jewish identity is strong, of course, because that is the reason of their persecution.
You will find Yiddish words, which you will read a list of, with some translations on the side. Of course you won’t remember most of them, but eventually you will get used to it. It’s not as dense and frequent as Anthony Burgess’ use of Cockney English and Russian in The Clockwork Orange.
You will also meet the Golem, which is the monster that is created by any of the characters when they are being pursued. I don’t remember the exact story of what the Golem was, but it is a sort of guardian angel, a vile but wise one, when it wants to be. There is a story where the Golem eats people, but I don’t remember, I’m assuming this was because the person who created it didn’t like the victims of the Golem. The Golem only appears in maybe two stories. This creature was probably the only aspect in this collection that clashed against reality. Excuse my lack of memory, I didn’t have much time to write this post until now. I’m a college kid.
There are three or two essays in here about the collection and the writer’s research on the Holocaust and his fascination with it. Well, I wouldn’t call it fascination, but sort of a fixation on it, that with all the answers and evidence, something still leaves us unsatisfied. Because why would anyone want to accept the fact that such an atrocity was committed?
As you can see, I can talk a lot about this. It was excellent in its humanlike characters and its self-loathing humor. But the self-hatred humor isn’t heavy enough to dehumanize the character into a walking joke. Because being a victim of such an oppressive force can make you have nothing but hatred for yourself.
But there were times where it was too much for me. Which anybody would understand. I usually tolerate depressing stuff, including books like this. but I think, lately, I have reached my limit, which is why I didn’t finish reading the latest Ma Jian book, because I just read too much tragedy. I also felt that the cycle of stories got a bit repetitive and it was just so bleak, that it became a drag to read. The prose was beautiful, but how can I describe this? it felt like looking at a black canvas and then trying to brighten it with something nicer. So you try this and it doesn’t work, you just get more black. And after denting more brushes and wasting more colored paint, you finally realize that every ounce of bright pink or yellow turned black, no matter how much you tried. I am just the queen of weird, cheesy metaphors aren’t I? But I feel like I can’t find the words to describe this, but Freese did what he did right, he wrote a Holocaust story collection and did a good job of it. He managed to poke and prod, repeatably, the ugliness and weakness of us all. Now I will write the stories that I liked and felt more, I guess I can, say they screamed the most at me.
Golem, I Need Your Help
This one introduced this grotesque mud creature. It’s one of those really smart ones. How do I say, it’s very “literary.” I say in a few words: Purpose, self, and life itself.
Food and Food Part 2
I actually sort of liked these. It made me question some writers who write about the Holocaust. I thought of, specifically, The Boy With the Striped Pajamas. Just read about the movie and you will see what I mean.
Der Fuhrer Likes Plain
Well, this one grossed me out, I kind of felt like laughing too.
I think I remember this one. It tossed my brain a bit.
Cantor Matyas Balogh
This one is the one that will make a tear shedding worthy short film.
It’s where a mother gets taken away, leaving behind a child. Heart stabbing.
Letters of longing, not much to say.
This one almost made me gag, much like the narrator.
The Indifferent Golem
The Golem stories were fun.
The lightest, it consists of something Hitler wore.
There are definitely more favorites than this, some little snippets of it will stick to me, but I just can’t place the titles on which. My memory of this is quite faint now, because I took too long to write this post. I apologize for my lack of memory. But school got in the way and this computer needed to be tweaked. I guess it was also the blogging/reviewing funk lately.