Posted April 10, 2007on:
I was faced with the same question Darby was when I finished Half of a Yellow Sun: what to read next? I already had the French bit covered with Cendrars. (And how about that? We were both underwhelmed by the Evenson although I’m half-convinced a partial re-reading may change that for me.) I needed something light, humorous, not necessarily fluff but it was not allowed to be emotionally draining. I was in a funk yesterday evening after finishing the Adichie and I needed to laugh.
Steve Stern’s The Wedding Jester waved at me from the bottom of a book stack. The book had been collecting dust since late 2005, after I read the *stupendous The Angel of Forgetfulness. It’s one of the two Litblog Co-op season picks that I’ve bought, the first of two that I’ve read (Wizard of a Crow is still waiting). I’m more inclined to purchase of the nominees rather than the winner, for whatever reason. Anyway the thing that amazed me about Stern was his preternatural gift with diction. It read as if he knew the etymology of every single word he used, offering his readers layer upon layer of delight not only with the meanings but the histories of each, providing additional implications, enriching my experience.
He also has a gift for depicting the absurd in his characters as much as in his fantastical scenes that earn him the “magic realism” label. That’s what brings out a lot of his humour which is exactly what I need.
You know about my thing for myth, right? Stern opened up for me an entirely different universe with his familiarity with Jewish folklore and mysticism, something I had never, ever been exposed to in Jamaica. And Kafka. My primary (only?) literary exposure was in the classroom and his name never popped up. The Jewish community in Jamaica is pretty tiny, pretty much anything I knew about Jews and their religion was from the Holocaust or Disney Channel multicultural holiday specials. So reading Stern made me as giddy as a school girl, even if I was googling for Yiddish words and phrases every 10 minutes or so.
The Wedding Jester is a short stories collection and the first one about the disturbances created by a flying tzaddic has already made me make some very unladylike snorts.
*Why isn’t there a category for Stern’s book on the LBC website? The month his book was covered wasn’t even listed in archives.