I did some stuff with Jewish Book Week this year. But before it all started, the people from Jeneration got in touch to ask if I’d write a little something on “My Favourite Fictional Jew” for a freesheet they’d be distributing throughout the week. I said yes, because it sounded like a fun thing to do and, let’s face it, I like the opportunity to get something in print. But I couldn’t think of anyone to write about, and then – yes, it was an epiphany – Jesus came to me, and I wrote this:
Even after twenty-three years of eating pork, I still get a thrill out of bacon. I grew up in a household where all things pig were ignored – they don’t exist! – yet treyf like oysters, mussels, abalone and snails were held in mythic esteem. Whenever my grandmother prepared snails, we’d traipse off to her house on Brighton Drive to watch my father eat them with that special fork as if they were something offered up to the High Priests of the Temple. Not changing the subject: I remember how shocked my uncle was when he went to sort out my grandfather’s things – he’d recently died – and found the New Testament by his bedside. I first saw Jesus in the rock-musical Godspell in a small community hall in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in the mid-70s. It was only when I moved to London that I came to rely on him. I know he’s not real – he’s a kind of fiction to me, like Moses and Job and Eve – but for many years, for most of the late 90s, really – I found huge comfort in Christ’s story, quintessenced in the image of him on the cross. I was suffering – I had a couple of crap jobs, very little money, my writing career was plodding along, my father was dying, and my nearest sibling was a 5-hour flight away – but the extreme pain, the frozen-in-time torment of the crucified man eased my anguish. I even – when no-one was looking – genuflected in a chapel or two. I have always turned to characters in literature for reassurance, and for lessons on how to be a man, a gay man, a Jewish gay man, a Jewish gay South African Israeli man in the world. And at times like now, Jesus has a lot to offer us – not for what people have made of him, but for what the stories tell about him: He was kind.