Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Julie Zuckerman writes about her debut novel in stories, The Book of Jeremiah, out now from Press 53.
If THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH were a Jewish holiday it would be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It would fast, wear a white button-down shirt and canvas sneakers, and stand around in the synagogue flipping back and forth in the prayerbook to see how many pages are left. THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH would beat its chest during the confessional prayers, briefly considering the wrongs it committed in the previous year while knowing full well that its failings will be the same failings in the coming year, and the one after that and so on. It would, however, pray fervently for the health of its aging parents (may they live to 120!), happiness for its partner, and maturity for its feckless children. And even though THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH knows it is not supposed to pray for material things on this holiest of holy days, it might throw in a prayer for the Yankees to win the World Series.
If THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH were a dessert it would be a brownie. If the book’s wife is making them, they’ll be the fancy kind: mouthwatering-mocha-mint or triple-decker tiramisu. When a key ingredient is missing the brownies might be made from (gasp!) a mix. If THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH’S son is whipping up a batch, the brownies will be laced with something; a prank that my book might have appreciated in its younger years but is too high to realize now. The first few times THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH will attempt to bake something on its own, it won’t get the timing or the temperature of the oven right and the brownies will come out too gooey in the center or burnt around the edges. But my book will eat them anyway and proclaim to anyone who will listen that they are delicious. In private, though, it might slam the oven door shut and scowl at the picture of the happy lady on the cover of the recipe book.
If THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH were a sport taken up by people in their late thirties or early forties to start getting in shape before it’s too late, it would be mountain biking. My book would enjoy the thrill of downhills, fingers lightly squeezing the brakes. It would not “clip in” for fear of being too clumsy and falling. Case-in-point: the particularly large boulder in its path right now that, thank-you-very-much there’s no freakin’ way it’s attempting to go down. Everyone else in the riding group will glide gracefully over said boulder, and THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH will laugh a bit too loudly and say something awkward as it takes careful, sideways steps down the boulder.
If THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH were a playlist it would be called “Singers/Songwriters—Dudes Who Love Their Wives.” My book might veer from time to time to the infuriating, the awkward, the impulsive, the grouchy, the embarrassing, but even after forty years of marriage, my book feels damn lucky. If my book didn’t have such a croaky voice it would serenade its wife with tunes such as “Wildflowers” and mushy ones like “You’re My Home” and “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You).” My book’s wife, for her part, would strap on her Gibson Les Paul electric guitar in skyburst blue and play something edgier, maybe “Ants Marching” or “Black Betty.” Her playlist would be called “Sixty is the New Sexy: Jewish Women Who Rock.”
If THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH were a team in a high-tech company it would be the product team, always making promises, working in silos, and “forgetting” to communicate bad news like delays in releases and major bugs affecting tier-one customers. Fingers would point to my book as the reason customer churn is so high, the reason salespeople can’t close larger deals, the reason finance must “right-size” by cutting 10% of the workforce, and the reason marketing team has lost all motivation and says there’s only so much we can do when the product doesn’t work. My book is the management team’s whipping boy, but the investors—God bless the investors!—see the potential, the spark of genius, the reason they fell in love with the technology in the first place.
If THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH were a relative it would be the kooky uncle who gets along better with the kids than the adults. At family reunions, it would grunt one-word answers to other adults but get down on its hands and knees and give horsey rides to the little ones. It would ignore its wife’s pleas to be careful with its back. THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH would take the kids aside, especially the mischievous ones—boys after his own heart – and teach them street rhymes like “Holy Moses, king of the Jews, sold his wife for a pair of shoes. When the shoes began to tear, holy Moses began to swear.” The relatives will shake their heads, roll their eyes, but they will be happy to see him, and the kids will grow up with warm feelings about family and wish their spouses could have met THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH.&nbp;
Julie Zuckerman’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including The SFWP Quarterly, The MacGuffin, Salt Hill, Sixfold, The Coil, Ellipsis, MoonPark Review, Okay Donkey, Crab Orchard Review, and others. A native of Connecticut, she lives in Modiin, Israel, with her husband and four children. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading, running, biking, birdwatching, baking, or trying to grow things in her garden. For more information, please visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.