Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

I’m always reading heavy and serious books like Kafka, the classics, or dystopian science fiction. So I decided recently to read something a little more light-hearted for a change of pace.

The book I picked up was from Rachel’s shelf – The Golem and the Jinni, a 2013 debut novel from Helene Wecker. The novel still has some serious themes, but it wasn’t the type of angsty existentialism I usually dig into.

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Medusa’s Eyes (a poem)

One look into Medusa’s eyes, you turn to stone

as Perseus knows – but the demigod is brave

he must save his princess

there’s no getting in his way

deep in the Underworld, toss a gold coin to

cross the awful river

Medusa slinks + slithers in her temple

‘till he slices off her head

uses it to kill the Kraken –

oh! how the gods play games with us

atop Olympus

one day they’ll pay for this

when they’re gone, forgotten

when we move to monotheism +

Zeus, Poseidon, the rest are studied

instead of worshipped.

(Photo from themarysue.com)

Note: I was inspired to write this poem after watching the movie Clash of the Titans – both the original 1981 version and the remake from 2010.

The High Priest of Saturn (a poem)

The Hight Priest of Saturn tends to his parish –

you didn’t expect to find him here

hidden in this Rust Belt town

a town eager for rebirth

a town that’s lost its youth

who’ve fled the flaking steel mills that die

on the banks of the purple river –

The High Priest of Saturn expects a successor

someone to continue the cleansing

the vicarious pleasure of standing

before Saturn, our merciful Maker.

(Photo from sciencenewsforstudents.org)

Note: This poem was inspired by High Priest of Saturn, a musical group self-described as in the psychedelic doom genre. I’ve been listening to more groups like them lately, so I guess the cool band name was caught in my head!

The Golem (a poem)

A golem without a master is like a key without a lock

the sorcerer created her, this woman made of clay

now she’s gone astray, wandering New York’s streets

without a purpose –

a golem is made to obey + without a command

it scarcely knows where to stand, desires pushing it

to + fro until someone says the magic phrase +

it disintegrates into dust.

(Photo source: Wikipedia)

Note: This poem is inspired by The Golem and the Jinni, a 2013 novel by Helene Wecker, which I’m currently reading. One of the main characters in the novel is a golem – a mythic creature in Jewish folklore.

The Snow Leopard (a poem)

Paw prints in snow point the way to the snow leopard

she hides in plain sight, her camouflage makes her a ghost

on these rocky mountain trails – we track her, to no avail

we only want a glimpse of this mythic creature

catch her on film + show her to the world in all her feline glory –

the stories of locals add to her legend

we walk for miles over many months

when we finally see her, we witness an apparition,

only to fade into the wilderness + white peaks of Chinese terrain.

(Photo source: © Mohammad Osama / WWF-Pakistan)

Note: This poem was inspired by a nature documentary Rachel and I recently watched on Netflix called Ghost of the Mountains. A team of filmmakers track the snow leopard in the mountains of China in the documentary, enduring brutal weather and high altitudes in an attempt to capture the creature on film. We highly recommend the movie!