Archive for July 8th, 2012
Folks, if you haven’t read any of Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s essays before, you may be bemused by his new non-fictional epic, A SENSE OF DIRECTION: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful, which I just reviewed over at Shiny Book Review. This is a book that’s partly a coming of age treatise for Lewis-Kraus himself due to his difficult relationship with his openly gay rabbi father, but mostly a reflection on the need for modern-day pilgrimages — both internal ones, and external ones.
Of course, the three pilgrimages Lewis-Kraus does are all external — the first one he does is the Camino de Santiago (colloquially called “the Camino”), the second to the 88 Temples of Shikoku, a circular pilgrimage, and finally he goes to Uman with his father and brother, Micah, to take part in the Orthodox Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah despite the fact that the Orthodox Jews don’t approve of gay men (or women) and that Lewis-Kraus isn’t particularly religious, though he is spiritual. This latter pilgrimage has the most to do with Lewis-Kraus’s coming of age narrative, but lest you think that’s all Lewis-Kraus has in store for you, think again . . . there are meditations on the greedy people of Uman (who live for a full year off the proceeds of these Orthodox Jewish men’s celebration of Rosh Hashanah), how the Orthodox men have only this one safety valve all year to look forward to, and how Lewis-Kraus’s father the gay rabbi seems to have the most compassion for them, all while wondering how anyone can put up with the cynical people of Uman.
A SENSE OF DIRECTION is a moving work of non-fiction that feels palpably real and makes clear the need for pilgrimages even in the modern era. It’s also bitingly funny, trenchant, honest to a fault, and shows the troubles even an extremely intelligent man can have in attempting to claim his adult self.
Simply put: go read my review, then go read the book, soonest. (You’ll be glad you did.)