According to scholars of Torah (the specific scholars cited in the following are Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson and Professor M. Haralick), the Messiah will be a human being born in normal fashion of ordinary parents. He will be a very righteous person and embody the highest standard of morality. He will miraculously battle the forces of evil and idolatry and succeed in destroying both. He will be the chief arbiter of justice to ascertain truth and falsehood. He will usher in a period of tranquility, peace, love, awe, and knowledge of God for all mankind.
Judah Ben-Gurion Maccabee believes that he may become the Messiah. He’s also 10 years old. The Instructions are his written scripture.
Adam Levin, in The Instructions (his novel, the fictional Gurion’s scripture), reveals the young Gurion as a highly intelligent, violent, and charismatic boy. Here, Levin has created a character that can carry a 1,000 page novel. Gurion, and Levin’s creation of him, is brilliant, entertaining, and heartbreaking.
The highly intelligent Gurion is able to offer interestingly insightful anthropological and psychological explorations of everyone he meets: teachers, bullies, and even psychologists (and more). Gurion’s violent side adds another interesting dynamic. His fear of no one, coupled with his fighting skills, brings about an interesting dichotomy; while few obstacles can stand in the skilled Gurion’s way, he seems to have consequently created other obstacles for himself when his violent actions cause him to be expelled from a school of Judaic studies. He is then relegated to Aptakisic Middle School’s “Cage”—a program meant to isolate the “problem children” from the school’s general population.
But while Gurion is clearly a fighter, he is just as much a lover. Intertwined in the story is his endearing romance with Eliza June Watermark. The novel also explores Gurion’s loving relationship with his parents. His mother is a former soldier and forever a fighter; his father is a lawyer and a talker. Both of them are clearly visible in the makeup of Gurion. When they are all together, their conversations are made up of a dry wit akin to Larry David but truer, cutting through the bullshit while remaining playful.
The grand arc of Gurion’s character is one for the ages. Just like the magnetic personality of Gurion, I was ceaselessly drawn to this novel. Everything about it is smart, sharp, and full of life. It is gut-wrenchingly perfect.
HOT PINK (2012)
Reviewed by Rose Feduk
Not being the avid reader that I’d like to be, I have found a book that is something of a miracle. As someone who lacks the willpower to get through a novel without abandoning it halfway through, Adam Levin’s newest collection of short stories, Hot Pink, gives myself and fellow lazy bums a chance to read genuinely good writing for chunks at a time. Each story introduces a well-crafted world full of thoughtful sentences, enticing characters, and generous helpings of humor.
What I found most enjoyable about the book was the way in which Levin lovingly uses words. One of the stories, “Finch,” begins with the sentence, “The fifty-third day in a row we hung out, me and Franco got all these grilled cheese sandwiches at Theo’s BaconBurgerDog from Jin-Woo Kim, who people call ‘Gino’ cause we’re not in Korea or are in Chicago or people are lazy or two of those reasons,” which, despite appearing to pack together a bunch of arbitrary details (nothing about Levin’s writing is ever really arbitrary), illustrates a sense of playfulness that is ever-present in Levin’s writing. Even still, a favorite quote of mine is towards the beginning of “The Extra Mile” where the narrator aptly describes the situation of himself and his geriatric, card-playing buddies with the simple phrase, “Our wives are all dead and we sit around warping.” In the same paragraph, Levin seems to highlight a certain theme that runs through all of his stories: “This wheezing heckle, this sputtering raspberry, this vile string of punchlines life. Funny? Sure. But also cruel.”
While some off-sounding elements give his stories an other-worldly feel, and quick summaries of said stories would probably produce a “What?” reaction from most people (like the story about a legless girl who insists her legs were bitten off by a leopard, contemplates God’s purpose for creating Adam, and seeks to discover the mystery of Carla Ribisi’s ass), Levin manages to stay grounded in reality with delicate character details and deftly-constructed scenes.