Blue

Benjamin Zucker, Author
Benjamin Zucker, Author Overlook Press $40 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58567-000-0
Reviewed on: 06/26/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-1-58567-181-6
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An imaginative, unusual layout inflates Zucker's novel into a true novelty as well as a detailed, heartfelt love story. Modeling his book on the Talmud, Zucker places a brief chapter of the tale in the center of each odd-numbered page, surrounded by commentary on the passage by such figures as Kafka, Vermeer, Monet, Joyce, Bob Dylan, Bobby Fischer, an assortment of ancient Greek and Jewish scholars and the central character's family and loved ones. Photographs and paintings on facing pages reference images from the text. In the core story, a young artist named Dosha seeks counsel from Abraham Tal, a New York diamond merchant whose avocation is dispensing advice: for $1 he counsels how to change your life; for $2 he tells you how to change it back. Dosha wants to know how to get her lover, Raphael Fisher, to marry her. Abraham, who has not proposed to his own girlfriend, Rachel, sees Fisher on Dosha's behalf, and in the meantime confronts his own family and Joycean memories. From this simple encounter a universe unfolds. Like all the novel's commentators, Joyce chimes in with advice and personal perspectives, riffing off the main story in quotes from published works or works of Zucker's imagination. Reproductions and details from the artistic creations of Vermeer and Modigliani, and from ancient Jewish texts, are extraordinarily beautiful. Antique jewelry is featured, too: a Venetian wedding ring is portrayed through photographs and in Abraham's mother's and grandmother's stories, as a symbol of cultural, religious and personal heritage. While cleverly presented, the descriptions sometimes grow tedious, however. Zucker himself is an established jewelry expert, the author of several books on gems and culture (Cameos in Context) and he treats this slight but multifaceted story like a precious jewel, looking at it from all directions, holding it up to the light, under the microscope, defining its color and shades, detailing its beauty and imperfections. 80 color and 32 b&w illus. (June)
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