Dara Horn’s new novel, Eternal Life, is out today, and Sarah Rindner reviewed it in our Winter 2018 issue. We caught up with Dara over the weekend and asked her 18 questions. The novel isn’t a comedy, but as you’ll quickly find, Dara Horn is very funny indeed.
- 1. Is there any book, written by someone else, that you wish you’d written?
The Torah. I feel like if I’d written that, I could do anything.
- 2. Which of your contemporaries will be read 100 years from now?
I’m still working on that time-travel app. When it’s in beta testing I’ll let you know.
- 3. What author or book do you think is most underrated? Why?
Jonah. I think it is actually a parody of the other biblical prophets. We read it on Yom Kippur and everyone takes it seriously, but to me it’s so obviously a joke. He does exactly the opposite of every other prophet in the Bible, and he’s the only one who gets results! And then he gets mad that the people repented and he didn’t get to watch the city get destroyed from the grandstand he built. That’s before we even get to the fact that he gets swallowed and vomited up by a giant fish. (And that he prays from inside the fish, and nowhere in his prayer does he say, “Please get me out of this fish.”) I am laughing my head off every Yom Kippur.
- 4. What author or book do you think is most overrated? Why?
The New Testament. The whole world is crazy about it, but I just couldn’t get into it. I hate sequels.
- 5. If you could make a change to anything you’ve written over the years, what would it be?
This is going to sound very retrograde, but I’d change my pen name to a man’s name—just to see how it would change the way people read my books.
- 6. What’s the most famous book you haven’t read?
Pride and Prejudice. I tried, I really did. But I felt like I was sitting through my least favorite kind of movie (romantic comedy) for eight hours instead of two.
- 7. Bible or Talmud?
Bible. You know, there’s the movie, and then there’s the DVD commentary on the movie.
- 8. King Solomon or Queen Esther?
Solomon. I’m aware there are all kinds of ways to interpret Esther where it’s not about sleeping your way to the top. I don’t find any of them convincing.
- 9. Moses ben Maimon or Moses Mendelssohn?
I wrote a novel in which Rambam was a character, so now he and I are friends. I’ve only read about the other guy, so we’re only Facebook friends.
- 10. Isaac Bashevis Singer or Sholem Aleichem?
Sholem Aleichem. Bashevis is far more interesting in English than he is in Yiddish, and for Sholem Aleichem the opposite is true.
- 11. Halakha or aggada?
Aggada. I’m one of those people who never reads the instructions.
- 12. Heschel or Leibowitz?
This is such a JRB question, but I will give the non-JRB answer of Heschel.
- 13. Saul Bellow or Philip Roth?
Saul Bellow. I’ve lived in Short Hills, New Jersey for most of my life, so it was too hard to take Brenda Patimkin seriously.
- 14. Leonard Bernstein or Leonard Cohen?
Leonard Cohen. “You don’t really care for music, do you?” was about me. When I listen to music I really only hear the words.
- 15. Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
Jerusalem. (Only because I already live in New Jersey, which has sushi and a beach.)
- 16. Kohen, Levi, or Yisrael?
Israel, though everyone else in my house is a Levi.
- 17. Latke or hamantaschen?
Last year I defended hamantaschen in our shul’s Latke-Hamantaschen Debate, while in costume as Donald Trump. I explained that the entire story about the oil for Hanukkah is fake news, completely made up two hundred years after the fact by rabbis in the Mishnah—who by the way are a bunch of failures and losers who lost to the Romans twice, losers like Rabbi Akiva who got captured by the Romans. I like people who didn’t get captured. So latkes are fake news and a big greasy lie, but let’s get one thing straight: No one respects latkes more than I do. No one. And I know your fake news reporters are going to say this is all about Haman, they’re Haman’s ears or Haman’s hat, or whatever. Listen, I don’t know Haman, I don’t talk to Haman, I don’t do deals with Haman, and my campaign for the victory of hamantaschen had absolutely nothing to do with him.
- 18. If forever is too long, how long is a good amount of time to live?
The main character of my new book, Eternal Life, has been living her life as the 2,000-year-old, and she’s really had it with immortality. One hundred and twenty isn’t a bad alternative. Always leave the party while you’re still having fun.
What happens when the hidden is revealed? Reading Megillat Esther alongside one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” shows that question to be at the heart of Purim’s paradox.
Just as soldiers in the IDF have no choice but to eat kosher food, the Jewish state makes decisions as to the nature of its consecrated sites: Jewish decisions.
After more ugly clashes at the Western Wall, two Israeli political scientists make a radical proposal.
Michael Weingrad discusses how two of the most highly praised novels of 2018, Dara Horn’s Eternal Life and Sarah Perry’s Melmoth, feature a Jewish woman born in ancient Judea who still walks the earth today.