The Golem by Gustav Meyrink is probably a book I would not have picked up on my own. Bronnie, a fellow postgrad, loaned it to me, promising it would be interesting and creepy. I admit that it took me quite a while to read the first third of the book, then around page 100 the seemingly unconnected events began to come together and became very interesting indeed. This is a novel about the Prague ghetto legend of the golem, a creature made of clay and given life by a rabbi using the cabala. The ending does not claim to explain all, but it does make the first few chapters make sense, which is something. The Golem requires quite a bit of mind-bending and suspension of belief, and it also contained nuggets of really beautiful images.
If The Sparrow is baptism by immersion, then The Name of the Rose is an act of penance. I, as a professional-medievalist-in-training, am humbled by Umberto Eco’s erudition as a ‘hobby’ medievalist. I’ve said before that this might be the smartest pleasure book that I may read, and I think I may be right in saying so: this is a historical fiction novel that is true to its period. What can I say about this book?1 It is a book about books; about labyrinths, logic, faith and heresy. There are murders, yes, and a detective. The cast of characters are Franciscans and Benedictines—add Jesuits and you’d have all three of my favorite monastic orders (fear not, Jesuits make their appearance in The Sparrow). This book is smarter than I am, and thus I cannot tell yet if it is my favorite, but if it is any indication of status, I have shelved it between The Sparrow and The Dispossessed.2 There are too many quotes that I loved, and I cannot find them all again, so I shall leave with these two:
‘”In order for there to be a mirror of the world, it is necessary for the world to have a form,” concluded William, who was too much of a philosopher for my adolescent mind.’
‘I had always thought that dreams were divine messages, or at worst absurd stammerings of the sleeping memory about things that had happened during the day. I was now realizing that one can also dream books, and therefore dream of dreams.’
1 As usual, Kelly reviews books much better than I. Read her review of The Name of the Rose.
2 Because my current library is a mere satellite of the library I left back in Texas, I have been less strict in my organization. Books are where I can fit them.