In, On and For A Book: My Strange Sojourn Into Eli Glasman's The Boy's Own Manual To Being A Proper Jew

on Wednesday, July 9, 2014
HOLY CRAP. I'M A FICTIONAL CONSTRUCT! Ok, so here's how it went down. A few months back, the lovely folk at Sleepers Publishing sent me a reading copy of the rather peculiarly titled The Boy's Own Manual To Being A Proper Jew by Eli Glasman. I'd known about the book for a while - Glasman is someone I see around the traps; we talk writing, he told me he'd be submitting it for publication and was quite rightly very excited when Sleepers took it on.

Fast forward a little bit and there I was ploughing my way through, doing my best impression of an objective reader, when BAM, I appear. Well, sort of. In the scene where some band called Yidcore plays in the courtyard of Melbourne's Orthodox Jewish boys' school, Yeshivah, it is me jumping up and down with the microphone. For the record, that really did happen. It was a Year 12 Muck Up Day prank. The students got us to come in, set up on the asphalt and start playing during class. Kids of all ages started streaming out and before we knew it, classes had been cancelled and there was a crowd of teenage religious kids moshing to a punk band (if only that was the most surreal thing to have happened to us!). Needless to say the scene flew by (it accounts for a single paragraph, but my mum was suitably proud) and I could return to the story. Yes, yes. Enough about me.

This book... what can I say? It's good. Really good. Sure, it's always difficult to read a friend objectively but I am genetically averse to lying, even to friends so when I say I liked it, I really mean it. And not just because of THAT paragraph. From the outset it's clear that Glasman is a talented writer - he's witty, daring and full of heart. The book, about an orthodox Jewish boy in Melbourne coming to terms with his homosexuality, is told with a degree of depth and compassion that ought not be in the wheel house of someone so young. And with Glasman having grown up in the orthodox community, the book also has a level of insight that greatly exceeds anything the casual observer might be able to perceive. There's very little soapboxing - the question of homosexuality in orthodox Judaism is handled without judgement or cheap philosophising. Rather, the full complexity is drawn out in a way that leaves all involved in a dignified space without having to have sacrificed their values or positions. It is a very generous, open and positive portrayal of both young gay men and orthodox Jews.

Leaving aside the flattery of being made into a fictional character, I really recommend Glasman's book. And if you won't take my word for it, just check out the raves on the back cover... Oh... Suddenly, I'm trying to be Shteyngart. How very meta.


Post a Comment