A Guide to a Different World...
My dual novella anthology, BEND IN THE ROAD, from MLR Press takes place in a world so foreign for most readers that it might as well be set in a 'galaxy far, far away...'
So, to help prepare you for your journey, I'll be offering guide posts. Each one focuses on a different part of the world of Aryeh, Dani, Yuval and Tsvi. I hope by the time you reach your destination, you'll want to find out what happened to these four young men in their 'different world'.
BEND IN THE ROAD, set in Eastern Europe in the 1880s, introduces us to two couples that find safe havens in the insular world of a traveling Yiddish theater troupe.
IN THE LION'S DEN brings us Daniel Bercovich, a young man in the first throes of finding his identity. Can the man he comes to love accept a new side to him?
Yuval Smolenski finds more than the inspiration for his music, he finds something everlasting in FROM STAGE TO STAGE. These Jewish men in love must deal not only with the stigma of that love but also fear the rise of anti-Semitism. Can their love survive all the forces that surround them?
IN THE LION'S DEN
I had the names for Aryeh and Dani before the title for the story. I was looking for a strong name for my older hero and came up with Aryeh very quickly. Aryeh means 'lion' in Hebrew and I've always loved the name. Daniel, for my younger man, is also one of my favorite names. It means 'G-d is my judge'. This too seemed fitting since for these men, G-d is the only judge who matters. It was only after I put the two names together and then called Aryeh 'Lionel', an English version of his name, that I realized I had the perfect title for their story from the biblical tale of the Prophet Daniel.
FROM STAGE TO STAGE
Yuval and Tsvi's story took its inspiration from several sources, primarily folk songs, popular music, liturgical music, poems and fairy tales. Yuval's name appears in the Bible in Genesis where he is known as the 'ancestor of all who play the lyre and the pipe' - a sort of patron of musicians and yes, the name does have a shared root in the word 'jubilee'.
Tsvi's name also comes from the Bible, this time from the second book of Samuel that includes the beautiful lament of King David for the deaths of Jonathan and Saul. The word used to describe Jonathan is "ha-tsvi", translated as 'the beauty', but it also is the word for "gazelle". Tsvi is a very popular name in Israel.
To some scholars, the story of the love between David and Jonathan is something more than comradely, so the name, Tsvi, fit my character perfectly. I referred to this portion of scriptures and other passages in Yuval and Tsvi's story and the names of the pivotal characters revolve around their Biblical source.
The story's title is taken from a Yiddish folk tune my mother used to sing called, "The Singer". The verse says, "The singer travels from town to town and 'from stage to stage'" - perfect for members of a traveling Yiddish theater troupe.
BEND IN THE ROAD
I found my inspiration for the anthology's title from several sources.
One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost. I've always loved a poem of his called "The Road Not Taken". It came to mind immediately because these men made choices to travel down different paths not only in their relationships, but also the decisions they made about the direction their lives would take.
At the time I wrote IN THE LION'S DEN, I had just seen "The Bubble", a gay Israeli movie and in the film there's a scene in a theater where the play "Bent" is being performed in Hebrew. "Bent" takes place during WWII and refers to the gay community during the Holocaust. I had seen this play years ago and seeing it performed again in Hebrew in the film brought back the initial impact.
And last, and perhaps the most personal, I've found many blogs sharing the gay Jewish experience and a phrase from one of those blogs stayed with me. It referred to the bend in the road not being the end of the journey.
For Aryeh, Dani, Yuval and Tsvi the bend in the road was not the end of their journey.