, a wildly original first novel by Benjamin Zucker, is a richly illustrated, multilayered story about aesthetics, love, brotherhood, and tradition. The novel's main character, Abraham Tal, is (like Blue
's author) a gem merchant in New York City. Tal's treasure is a Venetian Jewish wedding ring, a mysterious link to the traditions of his family and his culture; his search for the ring's origins and significance drive the book's main plot. Blue
's design is highly unusual and worth close attention. The text of the main story, about Tal and the ring, appears at the center of every other page in the book (each page of text faces a full-page illustration, meant to shed light on the story--subjects range from a photograph of the Taj Mahal to a self-portrait by Claude Monet). This central text is surrounded by commentaries in the margins, which are written in the voices of historical characters such as Vermeer, Crazy Horse, Bob Dylan, Proust, and Kafka, as well as the voices of Tal's mother, father, and girlfriend. The commentaries, like Talmudic writings, play with, build upon, and illuminate the primary story. Blue
moves fluidly through time, offering its reader countless opportunities to discover the harmonies and beauty that, over the course of this story, its main character gradually learns to see. --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
An imaginative, unusual layout inflates Zucker's novel into a true novelty as well as a detailed, heartfelt love story. Modeling his book on the Talmud, Zucker places a brief chapter of the tale in the center of each odd-numbered page, surrounded by commentary on the passage by such figures as Kafka, Vermeer, Monet, Joyce, Bob Dylan, Bobby Fischer, an assortment of ancient Greek and Jewish scholars and the central character's family and loved ones. Photographs and paintings on facing pages reference images from the text. In the core story, a young artist named Dosha seeks counsel from Abraham Tal, a New York diamond merchant whose avocation is dispensing advice: for $1 he counsels how to change your life; for $2 he tells you how to change it back. Dosha wants to know how to get her lover, Raphael Fisher, to marry her. Abraham, who has not proposed to his own girlfriend, Rachel, sees Fisher on Dosha's behalf, and in the meantime confronts his own family and Joycean memories. From this simple encounter a universe unfolds. Like all the novel's commentators, Joyce chimes in with advice and personal perspectives, riffing off the main story in quotes from published works or works of Zucker's imagination. Reproductions and details from the artistic creations of Vermeer and Modigliani, and from ancient Jewish texts, are extraordinarily beautiful. Antique jewelry is featured, too: a Venetian wedding ring is portrayed through photographs and in Abraham's mother's and grandmother's stories, as a symbol of cultural, religious and personal heritage. While cleverly presented, the descriptions sometimes grow tedious, however. Zucker himself is an established jewelry expert, the author of several books on gems and culture (Cameos in Context) and he treats this slight but multifaceted story like a precious jewel, looking at it from all directions, holding it up to the light, under the microscope, defining its color and shades, detailing its beauty and imperfections. 80 color and 32 b&w illus. (June)
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