The Right Thing to Do at the Time

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

Dov Zeller Ev­ery­thing Goes Me­dia (MARCH) Soft­cover $12.95 (347pp), 978-1-893121-56-0

Ari and Itche have been friends since child­hood, when they bonded over their feel­ings of ill-fit­ted­ness at sum­mer camp. Now in their twen­ties, they’d like to add some sparkle to their lives, and if love is the way, so be it. Pos­si­bil­i­ties come in the form of a movie star, Talia, who shows up to Shab­bat ser­vices one night, and her im­pos­ing best friend, Helen.

Dov Zeller’s book is a sex-pos­i­tive, Lg­btqfriendly, Jewish, New York City take on Pride and Prej­u­dice, with Ari stand­ing in for El­iz­a­beth Ben­nett and Itche stand­ing in for Jane. Its char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ments toe that line fairly closely, if re­la­tion­ships are of­ten jos­tled in the mix. That’s where deriva­tions end, though. Zeller’s clever style is all his own.

Ari is try­ing to find his way in a so­ci­ety that doesn’t value book­ish mu­si­cians or trans men as much as it ought to. He’s bur­dened with fam­ily ex­pec­ta­tions around per­sonal suc­cess and fit­ting in. He doesn’t al­ways know what he wants, but he knows who he is—a faith­ful young Jewish man with strong loy­al­ties who wants to make his Bub­bie Pearl proud and find a way to chan­nel his unique in­ner ni­gun.

There are mo­ments in which the novel gets a bit wrapped up in its own cute­ness—dis­cus­sions of love and af­fec­tion, par­tic­u­larly early on, have an un­re­fined el­e­ment. But more of­ten than not, the story scin­til­lates. Its lan­guage and plot turns are charm­ing as hell, and its awed and ir­rev­er­ent takes on the clas­sics—austen, yes, but also Jewish tra­di­tion more broadly—make it ab­so­lutely gesh­mak—or, if Ari isn’t avail­able to foot­note that for you, tran­scen­dently de­li­cious.

There’s a rea­son that Austen’s tale of mis­fits el­bow­ing their way into love be­came beloved; all of the same in­gre­di­ents are op­er­at­ing here, en­livened by a healthy dose of Yid­dish hu­mor.

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