I really enjoyed reading Chaim Potok’s, My Name is Asher Lev.
It has been written somewhere that “We read to know that we are not alone.” The struggle between faith and art drew me through the book. I wanted to know if his experience was like my own. Of course, he was an artist and I am a writer. But, the creative process and how that process affects those around us, those we love, is the same. Asher’s drive to create seemed compulsive, but perhaps that’s the way of genius or the experience of a prodigy. Not many of us fit in that category of artist.
I think most of us have to work at it. We have to fight the good fight. We have to win over procrastination, distraction, self-conscious insecurity about the work. We have to struggle with quitting as the result of a rejection letter. We have endless questioning. Can I really do this? Am I being faithful? Aren’t there already too many books? Is mine worth reading just because I’m moved by it? I hate the struggle but love writing.
I’m not a driven writer either. Some HAVE to write! I don’t have to write. I want to write. I love to write. It is work, hard work. But I love the result. I love to see someone, after I’ve read to them, have their light bulb turn on. I love to see that moment where they say, “I never thought of that. That’s important.”
Asher’s art and his selfishness in expressing it seemed to go too far. I could identify with his Rabbi and father and mother. They were not asking him to be untruthful, only more selective. I don’t believe that every whim, every flight of emotion needs to be expressed. Some things don’t need to be expressed at all. Some things are not worth expression–other than to make us feel relieved that we have shouted
the primal shout. But frankly . . . Who cares that someone indulges their carnal nature?
Asher’s was a search for beauty and truth. Truth in expression. And Potok has accomplished in writing what his protagonist did in painting. He has given us a novel of truth and beauty.
In that sense I am not alone. And if you strive to express beauty and truth, then you are not alone either.