Monday, March 07, 2011

Sacred Trash: A Must Read

I just finished reading an incredible book, with a most unlikely title. It's called: Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza. The book, which will be published later this month (and launched at the start of April) is the latest in a stunning series of original works that is published jointly by Nextbook and Schocken (NY). [I read an advance copy. Who needs proteksia when you have friends?]

The book tells the story of the discovery of the Cairo Geniza and the generations of scholars who extracted whole worlds from its detritus (a word the authors love to use). It is, however, much much more. The authors brilliantly recreate the personalities and interactions of the many colorful personalities who touched and were transformed by the Geniza. Names that I knew only as authors of important studies suddenly came alive, adding depth and excitement to the authors' tale.

At the same time, the book also brings to life various episodes and dimensions of the Geniza's riches with elegance and a keen sense of drama. The authors introduce us to Ben Sira and Hivi al-Balkhi, Karaites and Payyetanim, Dunash and Ha-Levi. It warmed my heart to anticipate how that which gets an academic's blood flowing can infect the lay reader with enthusiasm and interest.

I have to ask that the book is a joy to read. It's written beautifully. The wonderful use of language, the rich vocabulary and the passionate mode of description were simply intoxicating.

Sacred Trash, an absolute must read this Spring.

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