If you just read an interesting book and the author has an email address on her/his website, use it. One of the cool things about reading today is that you might have a quick exchange of ideas with someone far away who stirred your brain a bit.
The other night I finished Dara Horn's new novel Eternal Life and applauded myself for discovering a deep insight about it. The up front story is about two ancient Israeli lovers who make a pact with God to save the life of their dying young son. Their son lives, but they can never die -- or at least never stay dead. They live one struggling life after another and are always consumed by fires and then reappear somewhere as their young adult selves. The woman is sick and tired of the whole thing and really, really wants to die for good.
The book is a meditation about life and death, but it occurred to me at the end that the protagonists also represent the story of the Jewish people. So, like the teacher's pet I've always been, I wrote to Ms. Horn to tell her my reasons for my deep insight and ask her whether I was right. I felt a little chagrined when she wrote back that night to say:
"OF COURSE it's a metaphor for Jewish history!"
Then she went on to note certain historical nuggets wrapped inside the story. My ego recovered a little, because I had figured out a key plot twist involving a real-life figure whom Horn credits with keeping Judaism alive after the temple was destroyed. I was amused that she added,
"I'm frankly delighted that this was subtle enough that you felt the need to ask, since subtlety is not generally one of my strengths. My very mainstream publisher clearly felt that the immortality angle was more of a crowd-pleaser, and of course readers who read it that way still have plenty to think about. But I absolutely intended the book as a metaphor for Jewish history, which I find supernatural in its longevity. As Mark Twain wrote at the end of his 1898 essay 'Concerning the Jews': 'What is the secret of their immortality?' "
You can't expect certain top-selling authors to give you an email address; just imagine how many complaints George R. R. Martin would get every day because he still hasn't finished The Winds of Winter. But it's fun to have a little interaction with a lower-profile writer whose work intrigues you. Give it a try.
Evan - Married, three children, two grandchildren, formerly a newspaper journalist, now a public librarian, at all times a board game nut.