Jewish Books That Will Make You Plotz
From Moby Fleisha-Dick to The Bubbala in the Rye.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what my next book should be about.
After toiling in the trenches for many years writing about such mundane topics as finance, history, music, and law enforcement, I decided I now want to write about something with a Jewish theme. But what? I was stumped until I spotted a cute literary trend and knew I had found my answer.
Browsing online, I espied a bestselling book that was published about a decade ago entitled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. How clever! I marveled. Take a classic work and add a contemporary twist to it. I could take classic novels and adapt them to Jewish stories! There were many to choose from, but here are some of the ideas I came up with:
Moby Fleisha-Dick. This is the heartrending tale of a nineteenth-century Jewish sea-captain’s obsessive search for a great white whale nicknamed Moby Fleisha-Dick—because it eschews dairy and likes to feed on animals and people who plunge into the ocean on sinking ships.
Plotz and Prejudice. Kate, a liberal secular Jew, and Mordecai, a fervent Orthodox Jew, eye each other with suspicion at first, but their mutual attraction cannot stop them from falling in love and plotzing over the miracle of their unlikely romance.
Don Chutzpahxote. A shy nebbish draws inspiration from Talmudic passages and soon finds himself so assertive that he is transformed into a dashing swain who is atop every Jewish mother’s wish list.
Alice in Shluffyland. Baby Alice dreams she climbs into the ark at her local synagogue one day and falls through a hole in it that lands her in ancient times. Here she unites babies of all faiths to stand up to biblical injustices.
The Bubbala in the Rye. A Jewish grandmother decides to teach her rebellious grandson a thing or two about proper morals at a kosher deli, where she drives him crazy with her kvetching as they munch corned beef and pastrami sandwiches on—what else?—rye bread.
Les Meshugana. The place: Paris. The time: shortly after the French Revolution. A Jewish eccentric, Les Meshugana, confesses to a crime he didn’t commit. During the twenty years of his imprisonment, his mishagoss (crazy habits) grow worse. Finally, he is released and tries to lead an honest life by starting a garment factory. But his mishagoss drives one of the workers insane, and he is forced to flee. An inspector doggedly pursues him until he finds him one day hiding on a bridge. But the inspector makes a fatal mistake. He gives Les the “evil eye,” and the eccentric man does a pooh-pooh-pooh, spitting in the inspector’s eye, causing him to fall from the bridge and leaving Les Meshugana permanently free.
Frankenstein and the Matzoh Ball Martini. Dr. Hannah Frankenstein is a nice Jewish doctor until she goes out on a blind date with a man who is terminally boring. This disastrous encounter drives the good Dr. Frankenstein crazy, and she concocts a plan. She invites the milquetoast to a restaurant and surreptitiously drops magical matzoh ball powder into his drink. The man convulses uncontrollably, then scurries to the stage, where he electrifies the diners all night with hilarious Jewish stand-up comedy routines.
Jane “Oy Veis” M’Eyre. This four-hanky, sweeping historical romance follows orphan Jane M’Eyre through the hardships she suffers at her cruel aunt’s house, a boarding school, a country manor, the streets where she is homeless, a foreign country, and back to the manor, where she finds her love interest disfigured due to a horrific accident. A staunch heroine who refuses to be defeated by the cruel vicissitudes of society and nature, she learns to deal with calamity after calamity by simply uttering the empowering phrase, Oy veis meir.
The Three Mitzvateers. Elijah, an innocent teenager, leaves his seventeenth-century home for Moscow, where he studies at the Simcha Seminary. Here he yearns to join a secret organization of three seminary students who anonymously perform mitzvahs, or good deeds. When the Czar finds out about this secret organization, he exiles the three do-gooders to Siberia. They languish until Elijah heroically finds and releases them—and all the unjustly incarcerated inmates of the prison.
The Tzaddick of Oz: After a cyclone uproots young Miriam’s house on a Russian shtetl, she finds herself alone and lost in a dark forest. Upon seeing some scary creatures, she cries out for help, and the Good Malach (angel) of the North materializes and tells her she needs to find the Tzadik (righteous one) of Oz to find her way home. Treading carefully, she embarks on her journey, and along the way she encounters the Wandering Jew (who is looking for a Garden of Eden), the Sabbath Bride-to-Be (who is looking for her beshert, or soul mate), and the Golem of the Trees (a humanlike creature who is looking for its neshama, or soul). Now they’re off to see the Tzadik, but first they have to get past the Bad Malach of the South.
I think this could be a riveting Jewish story with potential not just for a book, but a movie and Broadway musical as well, especially when Miriam meets those good-hearted little people, the Menschkins.
So nu, which idea should I choose?