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Who wrote this Mac?

Sorry! I guess I should start telling people to include their credit with the text. It's Robert Gotcher. I'll retrieve the credit from his last post and add it. Thanks for letting me know.

Sigh. I just wrote a long comment and it didn't post and now it's gone. Suffice to say that I have not read these, have always wanted to, and I very much enjoyed Robert's description of and quotes from the Potok books.

I have learned that whenever I write a long comment I should copy it and paste it elsewhere before I post.


Robert, What I've read is great so far but I just don't have to finish. I'll comment later.


"I have learned that whenever I write a long comment I should copy it and paste it elsewhere before I post."
I do this as well.

This was a joy to read (as are the novels themselves).

There are several pages in The Chosen about the history of Hassidism — a chapter or two of it, even, if I remember rightly — presented as a conversation in the kitchen between Reuven and his father so vividly that it works as dialogue rather than coming across as exposition.

It's a small thing, perhaps, but I would take issue with the description of Professor Gordon in The Promise as "unbelieving". He's a modernist theologian (or the Jewish equivalent thereof), but not an unbeliever; to describe him as such is to take the view of his Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox critics as fact. It's heavily suggested in the course of the book that one of the motivations for his modernist text criticism is to make the tradition he values accessible to his wife, who would be an unbeliever if expected to swallow literal readings.

Point taken. I didn't reread it, so missed that nuance in my memory. I've found that I don't have time to reread much in writing for this series. For instance, I only reread the Chosen plus select passages from The Promise and Asher Lev. I would have read more when I was in bed with the flu for a week, but I had lost my copy of the Chosen and later had to get it out of the library. Plus, it is harder to think when you have a 102 deg. F fever.

As a matter of fact, Mac, why don't you put the word "unbelieving" in quotation marks.

Also, there is a square bracket that is the wrong way in "It is a pity [Reb Saunders"

Ok. I won't have time to make those changes till tonight, though.

Nice to see this. I've got My Name is Asher Lev on my fiction short list, due to a friend's recommendation. And I've never read The Chosen but I remember really liking the movie back when it came out. I saw it twice, maybe even three times back then.

My more extensive comments had to do with being a teen-ager and a little local bookstore I rode my bike to each week to purchase SciFi and Fantasy books with my allowance. The Mass Market Paperbacks would have been displayed in those metal swirling shelf things. Little by little I branched out to other fictions: Vonnegut, Heller, Garcia Marquez, Philip Roth. I always remember the Chaim Potok books being there and older editions of especially The Chosen, but for some reason I never picked one up. This is fine writing you show, and with much more interest in theology, Judaism, etc. these days I'm sure it would be a great read.

They are indeed great.

I'm sure I've mentioned this here before, but I Am Asher Lev is very important to me. It changed the way I look at art.

I have to say, Robert, that the suffering of the mother is important, but I think that it's mostly used to serve the greater theme of the book which is the power of symbol. Lev's teacher shows him how certain symbols are so embedded in our communal conscious that if we want to convey a certain message, we almost must use them, even if they aren't a part of our cultural heritage.


At least, this one is great, and the others at least very good. ;-) I really liked the others, but it's been a long time and I don't remember them well enough to give them an unqualified great.


I've never read Potok, and a big part of the reason is that I somehow I acquired a slight prejudice against his work, a feeling that it was supposed to be medicinal in some way and not necessarily especially enjoyable. I really have no idea what made me feel that way. Clearly I've done him an injustice.


I have a tendency to focus on the personal, rather than the thematic when I read a novel. In other words, for me what is most important is the spiritual/psychological rather than the philosophical. That is why the mother's suffering stands out.

Even in The Chosen, the most important part for me is the friendship between Danny and Reuven and the father/son relationships.

This is one of the reasons, for instance, I like Lewis's writings better than Chesterton's: I think Lewis has more psychological perception than Chesterton.

Maybe that is why I can't get through The Brother Karamazov. I don't know. I know I like the story of Robert and Chris in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance more than the philosophy, although I find that interesting, too.

On the other hand, it has been decades since I read Asher Lev in full. Maybe I'd have a different take now.

Is anyone doing Pirsig, or is he too much a one-trick pony?

I, personally, would be thrilled with anyone that you would do. Or anyone that anyone else would do--except Graham Green.


I couldn't do Pirsig. It has been too long since I've read Zen, and I don't have time to read anything right now. It was nip and tuck just to get the little bit of Potok I reread done.

Blessed Yom Kippur, everyone!

Have an easy fast.

You know, Robert, I usually would be much more interested in the relationships in a novel than the theme, but Asher Lev just hit me at that level.

More than anything else, what ask when I'm reading a novel is, "Where is the grace? Where does the Light of Christ shine in this darkness?" You find it in the oddest places, and often the author puts it there all unknowing.


Odd that the Pope is arriving in the U.S. on Yom Kippur. Seems very poor timing by the Vatican.

Yes, it does. But here's a sort of understanding take on it, from a sort of surprising source: The Atlantic. I have seen this writer's name on religion-oriented pieces and she's pretty sympathetic, definitely not scornful as you might expect in a venue like that.

Yes, that is a bit of a surprise from the Atlantic. The timing still bothers me, though. I found this piece from 2010, when Pope Benedict visited the UK and was set to give an address at Westminster Hall on Yom Kippur, but a workaround was arranged -- here's the article quoting a government spokesman:

"Sunset on the 17th is Yom Kippur. All that means is the event in Westminster Hall needs to finish in time for Jewish representatives to return home," he said.

"That's always been planned for. There's no argument around that. The church and parliamentary authorities have agreed the timing on the day."

I suppose he could have had another day of fellowship with the Castro brothers.


Just finished The Chosen and it was indeed a very fine book. While reading it I kept thinking that it is very much what we call these days "YA Literature" since the two protagonists are teenage boys. Seeing what is assigned to my Jr & Sr high kids as supposed literature I wonder why this book is not read more? I guess you could say because it is "religious", but it would serve a very good purpose of introducing kids to Judaism when they live in places where there are very few Jews. Potok is a fabulous writer and (of course) now I want to read all of the others!

I get the impression that YA lit has been taken over by dystopia and Judy-Blume-style "realism", and is fairly politicized or I should say feminist-ized. Just an impression, but if true I can see how this book would not be valued.

I had a big, unhelpful discussion with my oldest daughters English teacher(religious sister in Catholic school) about this 25 years ago. I'm pretty sure it hasn't gotten any better.


An it's not just what they are reading, but what they aren't reading.


No kidding. I'd have a hard time convincing anyone that it's worth the money to send your children to a Catholic school now. I remember being really distressed that my daughter was having to read The Poisonwood Bible in high school English. I don't know much about the book but I have very little doubt that the time could have been better spent on something else.

In talking to that sister you probably got yourself labelled as a right-winger or a prude or something.

The Poisonwood Bible is great literature compared to The Hunger Games!

Forgive me for once more coming very late to a book discussion, but I love Chaim Potok and want to add a comment about one more of his books - but first, I loved The Chosen and The Promise, and In the Beginning. The last was an autobiographical novel and I always wondered how many specifics were true - for example, did Potok himself have a lollipop pierce his throat so that he was unable to speak for a long time while recovering?

My Name is Asher Lev was gripping, but I found myself empathizing with the mother and thinking, "This is taking art too far, when you hurt your already suffering mother so much for the sake of your ego."

The most recent book I read by Potok was altogether different, I Am the Clay, set in Korea at the time of the Korean War, and it is very simple and powerful. Potok spent time as a chaplain in Korea, which I didn't learn until after I had finished the book.

So, I did like all five that I've read, as novels, but what seemed to be at least one message of Asher Lev, I could not abide. It's been a long time, though, and after reading some of your thoughts here I think I really should give it another go.

Thank you, Robert, and everyone!

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