The Jew­ish Fake Book

Sima Rabi­no
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012

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.”

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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