A fake book, according to the author, is a simple musical score consisting of a melody line and basic chords from which arrangements and improvisations are created. Sima Rabinowitz’s poetic style and topics are as varied as what may emerge from such a musical arrangement. In “Other Egypts” she realizes how her study of facts, words, rules, etc. regarding Judaism became “…the most exquisite exile…/My endless notebooks, another pillar of salt…/But when, after a time unmeasured,/I assembled the shards of history,/ I saw how I had concealed the shape of my longing./And the lost sparks were scattered still/uncounted, homeless.” History is placed beside reflection in “On the Second Page.” In the left column, the narrative account of Arab and Jewish doing/undoing is examined against the right column facts, in lines like, “The Holy One found no vessel that could contain Israel’s blessing except peace.” and more reflections on peace. It seems this author is stating nothing, yet seeking everything true about being Jewish. “One Hundred and Forty-Seven Negative Confessions” left this reader breathless in its unstinting honesty about doubts, fears, and reflections on individual and collective Jewish belief. Sima Rabinowitz sums it up best in the title poem, which is last in this collection, “…where everybody is so busy trying to figure out a clever, original harmony that all of a sudden, there’s no melody. That’s when music, for me, is the most like the rest of life. Once in a while the fake book is just plain wrong and it sounds like you and the accordion are locked in mortal combat. A completely unacceptable dissonance… You’re faking it — but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
The Jewish Fake Book
Deborah Schoeneman, is a former English teacher/Writing Across the Curriculum Center Coordinator at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and coeditor of Modern American Literature: A Library of Literary Criticism, Vol. VI, published in 1997.
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