Joshua Golding’s novel, The Conversation, is a book I found enjoyable to read. From the first page to the last page, the Jewish philosophical aspects held my interest on many levels.
David Goldstein is the protagonist who is from a secular family. He is a college student, and during his freshman year studies philosophy. This subject is the match that lit the flame for David, and therein begins his delving into religion, particularly Judaism. He is more or less an agnostic, and is seeking concrete answers regarding G-d.
David finds himself constantly questioning the foundation of his Jewish roots. He has rebelled due to a painful childhood, and more or less lost his belief in Judaism’s doctrines and principles. That changed when he visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It had a deep and profound affect on him, evoking emotional responses to what he had seen. He begins conversing with the college Rabbi regarding his feelings and thoughts on what he has seen. The Rabbi offers suggestions, and is sensitive to David’s questions.
David speaks to his friends concerning his perceptions. His friends’ beliefs are varied. There is Simon who believes in pleasure-seeking, and during conversations with David, tries to direct him away from Judaism, or any spiritual higher power. David also has a friend named Ravi. Ravi believes in mystical forces, and is avid in his beliefs in the powers of meditation. George, on the other hand, believes that belief in Jesus, as the savior, is the answer to everything, and that David need look no further.
Aside from his male friends, he was in a relationship with a girl named Helen, and soon breaks off with her. His fascination with Judaism, and its theories, dogma and doctrines overtook his attention to her and he neglected her. He eventually meets a student named Esther Applefield, who is from an extremely Orthodox family. He is attracted to her in ways that are not permissible within her religious beliefs. She makes it clear regarding the boundaries. Yet, he continues to pay attention to her. She inspires him to educate himself more on Jewish life. He seeks to learn more through her, through others. He was is not vain, but becomes self-absorbed (almost excessively) in his searching for answers.
He is constantly conversing with Rabbis, Professors, friends, lecturers, etc., through face-to-face contact, emails, telephone calls, letters, in order to gain more insight and clarity regarding G-d’s existence, and regarding Judaism’s role in the religious spectrum. Often, these individuals are in the midst of some work-related function, yet David’s strong verbalization on his need to know, causes him to get his immediate urge fulfilled.
In my opinion, Judaism itself, although not being an actual physical individual, could be defined as the protagonist, and David (and his friends) could be defined as the antagonists.
But, for the reader to have an actual person, in a physical sense, I will leave it as David being the protagonist. David is dynamic and not static throughout most of the book, and I see that is due to his self-seeking interactions. We see him mature from an immature college freshman to a more mature senior. He attains a state of individualization, as far as his thought processes, religious concepts and cognizance, and emotions. We see his emotional growth as well as his religious growth, and he does exhibit continual change. Yet, within all of his immediacy, his questioning, his seeking answers, his constant reflections and searching for concrete proof of the existence of G-d, we also see, towards the end of the book, a slightness of his being static, within his quests. He does revert to some old behavior, and doesn’t appear as dynamic or mature as I had thought.
I won’t delve into the reasons for his behavior. You will have to read the book to find out.
Jewishness is at the very heart of the book, and it is the reason for everything that Golding brilliantly inserts into the pages. He is masterful with his questions that involve every spectrum of Judaism, and with the answers that broaden those questions into varied considerations to reflect and contemplate. The range of subjects discussed contributes to the fact that <a href="Jewishness is at the very heart of the book, and it is the reason for everything that Golding brilliantly inserts into the pages. “>The Conversation is a compelling read.
The Conversation is a novel that is filled with philosophical thought concerning religion. Questioning is predominant through conversation. Dialogues range from David-to student, David-to academic individuals, David-to Rabbis. The conversing covers mysticism, logic, faith-based belief and denial of one’s self within the religious realm. The book encompasses an academic/intelligent or scholastic framework for Jewish thought and practice. Ideals are blended, the new thoughts with the opinions of the older Rabbis (sages and masters) and their ideals, and teachings. The foundation is set for David’s continual interrogations and communications, and reassessment of religious values.
The Conversation explores comparisons between religion and science, logic and faith, in depth. For some individuals, there is incompatibility between religion and science, and/or logic and faith. For others those dimensions can coexist in accord with each other.
I found The Conversation to be a metaphor for Judaism, for its philosophies, foundation, principles, and the all-encompassing educational and Jewish life aspects of Torah and Talmud. It is an intellectual book dealing with Jewish philosophy. I was impressed with Joshua Golding’s writing, and thought he was brilliant in infusing the pages with back and forth dialogue and conversation. There is much to ponder in the novel. He has written a masterpiece, in my opinion.
I highly recommend The Conversation to everyone.
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February 25, 2013 – 15 Adar I, 5773