Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lesley Hazleton

Lesley Hazleton reported on the Middle East from Jerusalem for more than a dozen years, and has written for Time, the New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and Harper’s, among other publications. Her last book, After the Prophet, was a finalist for the PEN-USA book award.

Last month I asked the author about what she was reading.  Her reply:
Colm Tóibín's new novel The Testament of Mary.

Tóibín makes Mary so achingly human that even as you read, mesmerized, his clear cold-eyed prose makes you want to weep. I have no idea how he does this, but I’m glad he does. He writes in her voice as she looks back, her own death nearing. You could say it’s the voice of a disillusioned Mary, but this woman has never had any illusions. Instead, she’s transcendently clear-eyed.

Among many other things, this short, almost terrifyingly lucid novel is a brilliant commentary on how 'history' is constructed. Mary watches in dismay as the disciples set about creating their own version of her son’s life and death. They 'interview' her as a matter of obligation, but can’t hide their frustration when she refuses to endorse their manufactured memories. She sees them as threatening presences, enforcers of their constructed view of things. She feels 'the enormity of their ambition and the innocence of their belief,' along with 'their efforts to make simple sense of things that are not simple'.

Since then, I've gone back and read nearly all his work, and am still stunned at the sheer grace of his writing. Another good place to start: the nine stories in his collection The Empty Family.
Learn more about Lesley Hazleton at The Accidental Theologist blog.

The Page 99 Test: After the Prophet.

--Marshal Zeringue