The Bookish Bedroom Behaviour of Ben Gurion: The Mile High Book Club

on Monday, April 19, 2010
The not-very-well-disguised Royal Jordanian sky marshall was excited to read the tattoo across my right wrist. "Salaam, very nice," he said, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "Peace". I was relieved. There's always something slightly worrying about getting a language you don't speak or read etched into your skin forever. How many people have succumbed to that idiotic craze of tattooing individual Chinese or Japanese characters on bits of their body only to find out what they thought said "Serenity" in fact read "Starbucks"? I then held up my left wrist. Shalom. In Hebrew. The sky marshall mumbled something unintelligible and walked away.

I settled into my seat with The Behaviour of Moths, intent on getting at least a start on it in the thirty-five minutes from Aman to Tel Aviv. Seventy pages later we landed and I had to put it on hold, although by that time I was well and truly immersed.

The following eight days in Israel were stuffed almost as full as my stomach after... well... eight days in Israel. But it wasn't all sabich and shakshukah (actually, given it was Passover for the first week there, I could only get proper, decent food on the final day. Rest assured I made up for it). Obviously, Exodus-related shenanigans took up the first few days. Whilst munching on perforated cardboard, I spent the majority of the time in awe of the first edition of Nineteen Eighty Four just sitting inconspicuously on the bookshelf of the apartment in which Debbie and I were staying. I mean, who doesn't have one in their home, right? The second half of the trip was spent in Eilat, lazing on banana lounges at an hilariously Miami-esque resort, complete with giant, central, moated pool. Oh, and annoying, loud, obnoxious Israelis who seemed to think that mid-90's euro-beats blasting out of their crappy oversized speakers was just what every other guest at the hotel would enjoy listening to. I digress. On the way from Jerusalem to Eilat we stopped at Ben Gurion's desert escape (aka my dream home). It's a little wooden shack in the middle of nowhere; a gaggle of tiny rooms arranged around a giant library. While everyone else marvelled at the sleeping arrangements (elven David and his wife had separate shluf-quarters - some say it was because he didn't want her to stay awake while he worked into the wee hours of the morning, others just smirk and point out that it clearly was his shag pad), I took photos of the library from every possible angle and screamed at various children who got in the way of my shot.

Eilat proved a reading boon for me. I finally conquered The Magic Mountain, before devouring Amos Oz's gorgeous little fable Suddenly From The Depths of the Forest. Next, I was morally confounded by Willem Frederick Herman's The Darkroom of Damocles which has perhaps the weirdest assertion ever on its blurb: "It is the very impossibility of ascertaining the "right" side and the "wrong" side - the moral issue of the Second World War in a nutshell - that makes Herman's novel as breathtaking now as when it was written.". WTF??? Which British National Party dunderhead let that one through to the keeper? I caught my breath only to have it ripped right back out of me (in a much more pleasant way)by the unexpected dazzling beauty of The Behaviour of Moths.

Another brief review.

Gotta hand it to those Jordanians. They sure know how to propel a damn good book up the airport bestseller list. I had seen The Behaviour of Moths on the recommended table of my local bookstore for months but never thought to pick it up. More the fool was I! It has been a long while since I've been so wholly consumed by a classic gothic tragedy. And though I've never been one for audio books, I couldn't help but hear my grandmother's voice as Ginny recounted her strange tale of a family torn asunder by badly-kept secrets. It made for a truly haunting experience. Locked away in the old family mansion, surrounded by the moths that she has devoted her entire life to studying, Ginny finally welcomes back her 'little' sister Vivien after forty-three years of city life. From the outset it is clear the two have issues to resolve, a lifetime of compounded grudges. Ginny is one of the best unwittingly unreliable narrators I've ever read. She is the perfect product of her time and circumstance, ravaged by the brutal abuse of a violent, drunken mother, but forced to conceal both her injuries and, more importantly, their cause from the people of their judgemental, God-fearing provincial town. Vivien's return completely unhinges Ginny. Turns out the family wasn't so blind after all and, indeed, might just have been forced to take extreme steps to protect her. It all becomes too much for the unfortunate recluse, her life shown up as a pathetic lie, and so she is compelled to exact revenge. If you found V. C. Andrews or early Ian McEwan dark, you ain't seen nothing. Get your hands on this book - a thriller with serious literary flair.


Post a Comment