Posted in Commentary on April 20, 2010|
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I attended a presentation and book signing last night with author, Anita Diamant. She is the creator of The Red Tent, Good Harbor (I am currently listening to it), The Last Days of Dogtown and her newest novel Day After Night. When I have the chance to meet authors in person I am always eager to hear the texture and tone of the creator’s own voice, as usually I’ve heard what they write through a narrator’s interpretation or my own vision for the “voice” of the novel. Diamant has a very soft warm voice that I’m sure would have been pure honey as a reader for The Red Tent, my favorite of her work. Opening the evening Anita Diamant spoke about her work as a journalist and non-fiction writer before she began her work as a novelist. Her life as a non-practicing Jew changed a great deal when she got married and began writing books about the experiences as someone new to her faith. As a daughter of Holocaust survivors she explained that her parents (and other survivors) didn’t feel that religion contributed solace toward these events and didn’t embrace faith afterwords. The non-fiction work lead to her engagement in the story of Jacob’s two wives, Rachel and Leah.
A few comments from the presentation that I would like to share revolve around friendship and redemption. “Women’s friendships keep the world from falling apart” Diamant affirmed and her books are very reflective of friendship. Readers of The Red Tent will attest that though Rachel and Leah are sisters, there is a strong bond of friendship. Good Harbor, and Day After Night are also studies in friendship. Diamant noted that the world is need of redemption in addition to friendship. She explained that 20 years ago she watched Nelson Mandela being released from prison with her 4 year old daughter. It was a moment that was “good for the soul of the world” after all of the years on injustice. Day After Night seems to be written as a story of redemption. “As bad as the night is” she states “there is always morning”. Inspiration came to Diamant after visiting an detainment camp in Israel and learning of the conditions and procedures detainees endured. “Holocaust literature eclipses the war experiences” and this book is a different account of those war experiences, an extension really. Her new novel is about four friends settled at Atlit, a detainment camp for those flooding Palestine after the war in which over 100 detainees escaped without incident or casualty.
When asked if she would write again a novel set in Biblical times, or a sequel to The Red Tent she answer she would not, “and you wouldn’t like it if I did”. She explained that writing her first novel after years of columns, essays and non fiction was a beginning for her. “I become a beginner each time I write a novel”. So for those like myself (who adored the complex story of women in the ancient world with authentic and natural voices) will have to search elsewhere. When told of a local book club that began with the discussion of The Red Tent and celebrated this their 10th year with Day After Night, Diamant exclaimed “there is something so pure about book group[s]” publishers cannot buy the success of a book discussion for their products. That’s high praise for those of us who attend (or in my case, the daughter and sister of librarians) live life as daily book club.
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