Jan 21, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Two books about the lives of two men landed on my desk both written by local authors. One man was disposable, the other was on the fringe. Both contained an exceptionally strong Jewish presence. The first is a novel appropriately named Disposable Man and is a reminiscence of Max Krumm who might be the alter ego of the author, Michael Levitin. The second is called Living on the Fringe and it is a memoir by Abraham Entin. Entin is a Santa Rosan and Levitin, though now living in Berkeley, was formerly a Forestville resident. Both men have fine educations with graduate degrees from prestigious universities. It is doubtful the two have met, yet they both display a very admirable ethnic proclivity towards activism. Levitin was co-editor of the Occupied Wall Street Journal and Entin received a certificate of appreciation from Occupy Santa Rosa.
The protagonist in Disposable Man, Krumm, is afflicted with a mysterious genetic condition that has been passed on for generations. The males in the family are always cuckolded. So when his German wife, who was the granddaughter of an SS officer, leaves him it leads Krumm into a journey into the past. The "McGuffin", a device that fuels a plot, is a postcard his great aunt sent merely addressed to "Albert Einstein, USA" in which she begs for a pair of boots in order to survive the brutal winter of a Siberian gulag where she been forced into labor. The postcard sends him from Berlin to Poland to Lithuania in search of not only his lost manhood but also for the meaning of his existence. Levitin's prose is elevated and scholarly but, at times, also poetic and lyrical. When he describes a place, any place — you are there.
Like the disposable man, "Eddie" Entin could have followed the life handed to him but instead preferred to hear that different drummer. Having been accepted into Yale law, which would not only have made him exempt from being drafted into service in Vietnam but would have offered him a luxurious future life style, he opted for another path. Like the poet in the woods presented with the two divergent roads, he chose the one, "...less traveled by and that made all the difference." After burning his draft card, he commences on a life's journey that includes various occupations, road trips, and romance. His quest for spiritual enlightenment, peace and justice includes swings from coast to coast, from southern California to the desert and back and when he finally gets to Cazadero in Sonoma County ...his book breaks off leaving the reader salivating for a sequel.
The concepts of Judaism are inherent in both works manifesting itself as a strong sense of righteousness and greater duties. Both men end their stories hopefully.
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