Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to Beat the Arrangement: Sephirothic Magick, Wicked Slingshots
& Torah Studies in Adam Levin's The Instuctions

Where do I begin with this one? First of all, you'll have to excuse the run-on sentences and use of all caps that's invariably to come of my attempt. "The Instructions" is sprawling in almost a David Foster Wallace (or the over-long Pynchon/Delillo books) kind of way, and I mean that more in the sense of it's style, rather than content or form. It's subjects are Junior High/High School kids set in outer Chicago suburbs, their cultural origins are of Yiddish/Jewish/Scholarly leaning, the Torah figures largely and you learn how to make various weapons to defend yourself from persecution and the assaults of others... including how to apply the Sephiroth in the arrangement of it's 'sphere's phonetically to create a telepathic weapon. So yeah. Does that help? Ok, let's try again, Gurion ben-Judah Maccabee is a Junior High School kid who's been shuffled across the greater Chicago Jewish school system, not because he's a poor learner, the kid's frickin' BRILLIANT but instead because of that very factor, his brilliance, he's managed to influence others to the extend that his elders and even the Rabi who instructs him in after-school Torah study, is concerned about his ability to lead and the strength of his convictions and what end that may effect the local Jewish youth if unguided by their intents. So, of course this system 'the arrangement' as the kids know it, in it's attempt to guide this young protege' does little more than constrain, discipline, dogmatically oppress and manipulate him into situations of acquiescing their superiority and that he should submit to tradition and be humble in his reading of the scholars and study of Torah. Yeah, a A+, inventive, inquisitive, curious, charismatic, Torah-obsessed, young man who sees himself as a Israelite Warrior, caught in the school system, expelled multiple times, placed in a program for the learning-impaired, (ie; AAD/ADHD 'trouble kids'), set back 2 grades when he should be forwarded 5 due to his intellectual competence... what's gonna happen here? Of course: He wants to DAMAGE THE ARRANGEMENT. Of course: HE'S GOING TO USE HIS TORAH-BASED PHILOSOPHY TO FORM A VARIABLE OF HIS OWN. Of course: HE'S GOING TO LEAD THESE KIDS BASED ON THAT PHILOSOPHY. Of course, the modern world is going to label him A TERRORIST...and for as goddamn delusional as he seems sometimes, and for as much as I'm not a fan of Dogma (judea christian, jewish, muslim, you name it) - his sense of logic and justice are often infallible. And after having been a pivotal figure in the lives of kids spanning three High School systems, of course he becomes the very leader THE ARRANGEMENT has been doing their damndest to prevent him from becoming. And this book is a documentation of that process. As the 'Instructions' he's recorded for his brothers, friends and fellow Israelites for their DAMAGE on THE ARRANGEMENT, or as he sees it; Scripture. 1300 Pages of it. Depicting the events of 4 days. And the disastrous and revelatory conclusion of one brilliant fictional kid's battle for justice and freedom within an arrangement that only allows/desires it's participants a set degree of both. By the end it's language infected my mind and I felt divided about the length/need for this degree of hyper-exposition in plumbing the psyche of the protagonist and his world... but I couldn't imagine it otherwise... but yeah, don't just listen to me, consider what these fine establishments had to say on the subject:

Link to The Village Voice review of "The Instructions"

Link to The New York Times review of "The Instructions"

Link to The Washington Post review of "The Instructions"

Link to The London Observer review of "The Instructions"

Link to The San Francisco Chronicle review of "The Instructions"