Schama's ambitious tracing of Judaism from its beginnings (about 1000 BCE ) to 1492 is a marvel -- full of incident and specifics that make the past lively. Take for example the wonderful description of the trousseau of a mid-12th century Jewish bride in Egypt -"six white robes, three cloud blue, three blue and gold, one pomegranate red, three pearl-colored, two ash grey, two deep green, and two saffron." And all this for a bride "of average means."
The book is dense with archaeological finds, deciphered shards and papyri, as well as historical documents from medieval England, Germany, Portugal, North Africa, - anywhere that the Jews of the Diaspora found themselves and made communities. The thread that binds the history together is the devotion to words -- spoken or written. The Talmud and the Commentaries and any amount of poetry and the words of the people themselves -- all these give testimony to the rich heritage of Judaism.
And what a history it is! The atrocities and pogroms over the centuries are given full attention -- a disgraceful story and I'll never think of St. John Chrysostom in a kindly way again -- 'golden-tongued' indeed!
But there's so much more! The philosophical and cultural push and pull between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam over the years, as well as Jews as hired mercenaries, Jews as traders on the Silk Road, Jews in Moorish Spain honored as physicians, Jews in Medieval England protected by the monarch -- in exchange for the protection money that funded the Crusades. So much I didn't know or only knew from novels.
I especially enjoyed reading about the "vast Jewish kingdom lying on the high grasslands of western Asia, watered by the lower Volga, bordered by the Caspian Sea to the east, the Black ... Sea to the west, and the Caucasus Mountains to the north. All of Crimea and apparently the city of Kiev lay in its power." This would have been around 978.
I chortled when I read this because I'd first heard of the Land of The Khazars when I read Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road
in which two Jewish mercenaries/swashbucklers come to the aid of the heir to the Khazar kingdom -- I thought it was all make-believe till I read Chabon's comment that he was inspired, on learning of Khazria, by the thought of 'Jews with swords.'
Now I have to reread both these books. The first, because it is so very full of information that I more or less skimmed through, alighting at the tastiest bits. And the second, because what I learned from the first will, no doubt, enhance my enjoyment.
Bonafide, certified, fortified, justified, satisfied, maybe even sanctified!
I had my last visit from the very nice physical therapist who has been working with me since I came home and she declared herself pleased with my progress. She watched me descend (backward) and ascend the steep basement stairs that have heretofore been a no go zone and then we went for a little walk outside.
Now it's just a matter of doing a bit more each day. But what a pleasure to be outside! The snow is gone and it's rather balmy out.
Spring bulbs are nosing their way into the light (not unlike myself.)
All this talk of Golden Showers, whether fake news or something much more serious, has me thinking of the legend of Danae who was impregnated by Zeus in the form of a shower of gold.
Zeus liked to have his way with maidens but often had to disguise himself in a vain attempt to fool his jealous wife Hera.
It never worked. She always found out.
And how I hope that this vulgar buffoon who is about to be inaugurated is eventually found out by his supporters for what he really is. His cries of 'fake news' would carry a bit more weight if it hadn't been he who kept up the story that Obama wasn't born in the US, promising the faithful that 'his people' were making some interesting discoveries. And did he ever open his mouth to discredit the incredibly far-fetched 'pizzagate' libel? If he did, I missed it.
"People are saying" that DT is a useful puppet for Putin. Will this turn out to be true? And even if it did, would it bother the true believers who seem totally okay with their leader's infatuation with Putin?
The lack of regard for facts puts this whole election into the realm of mythology. It would be interesting to read what history will have to say about this time we are living.
Always assuming that the future holds anything resembling objective history . . .
June 1o - Speaking at a luncheon at Montreat College
June 25-July 1 -- John C. Campbell Folk School. I'll be teaching A Practical Guide to Writing Popular Fiction. Your novel starts here with this intense, week-long class. We will focus on writing realistic dialogue and creating characters that move through and interact with a fully realized setting. We will discuss different approaches to plotting, tricks for building suspense, means of ensuring continuity, and the avoidance of info dumps. We'll also talk about forming or joining critique groups, the ins and outs of self editing, agents and how to query them, as well as the various publishing alternatives available today. All levels welcome. Link to JCC HERE.
July 8-15 Wildacres Writing Workshop. I will be leading a workshop on the novel. Here's your chance to spend a week surrounded by writers of all sorts. The 2017 schedule is not posted yet but you can get an idea of what goes on by a look at last year's HERE.
All images and content are subject to copyright and are the sole property of Vicki Lane Mysteries. If you would like to use something from my blog on your blog or website, please email me and ask first. I'll probably say yes.
I'm the author of The Elizabeth Goodweather Full Circle Farm Appalachian Mysteries from Bantam Dell. The series includes SIGNS IN THE BLOOD (LA MONTAGNE DES SECRETS in France), ART'S BLOOD, (LE SECRET DES APPALACHES in France,) OLD WOUNDS,IN A DARK SEASON (Anthony Nominee, Best PBO), and UNDER THE SKIN. There's also THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS (a spinoff/standalone)chronicling the unexpected life story of Miss Birdie, one of Elizabeth's neighbors.
Currently I have just completed a historical novel, dealing with a massacre in my county during the Civil War.
I came to this weird business late (my first novel was published in 2005) and am still trying to figure it out.
As my novels are set in a place much like my real life home, I thought I'd use this blog to share pictures of our farm and county. I've been blogging for nearly nine years now, on an almost daily basis, and the topics have ranged from writing, chickens, food, books, quilts, flora and fauna of all sorts, to the occasional tiny rant. There's no plan, but there are lots of pictures.
There's more information about me and my books on my web site: http://vickilanemysteries.com/