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Monday, July 13, 2015

The Link Between Harrison Ford and Golems

A recent episode of the TV show "Grimm" featured a golem summoned to life by a child. It struck a chord with me, as I'm a fan of the late writer Avram Davidson. Imagine a man stomping up onto the front porch of a retired Jewish couple living in California. Not only does he look strange, but he talks about being created in a laboratory, and announces his plans for world domination. Davidson's story is peppered with all sorts of Jewish language and lore (in addition to Hollywood history), and it's a real charmer. Of course, it's titled "The Golem." 

Watching the episode recalled another story about golems I read a few years back. It was the novel Snow In August by Pete Hamill, which features a young Irish immigrant in 1940s New York City. He doesn't feel like he belongs anywhere, but bonds with a Jewish priest. Hamill suggests in the novel that Jews and the Irish were looked down on and excluded as much as Blacks were at that time in many areas of the United States. This sense of exclusion forms a tribal mentality among many in New York's Irish community, but the boy refuses to give up his friendship with the Jewish priest to please them. 

Another thread running through the novel is the hubbub surrounding Jackie Robinson's first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The fact that this Black player is not just entering a White Man's sport, but also playing extremely well, offers the young Irish boy support and inner strength he needs. As I remember it, at the end of the novel, the boy must confront a gang of Irish boys who intend both him and the Jewish priest harm. So he uses the Jewish lore the priest has taught him, and summons a golem to help him confront the bullies.

I'm not much into baseball these days, but the episode of "Grimm" got me thinking about golems, which reminded me of Avram Davidson and Pete Hamill's stories. Jackie Robinson's influence on the young Irish boy, in addition to Harrison Ford's starring role, aroused my interest in the movie "42." To my knowledge, Harrison Ford's never acted in a movie about golems, but I've enjoyed watching him ever since he portrayed Han Solo in "Star Wars." While recent events in Ferguson Missouri remind us that we still have a long ways to go, "42" reminds us that racism once played an even larger role in American life than it does today. The movie serves as a nice biopic on Robinson, and I enjoyed watching it on a DVD my mother and friend loaned me. But I never would have asked to borrow it, if I didn't like Harrison Ford, and the episode of "Grimm" hadn't reminded me of Hamill and Davidson's stories about golems. 

As for those two golem stories, it appears that other people love them far more than I do. Richard Friedenberg liked Snow in August so much that he adapted it into a TV movie for Showtime. If you're interested in watching it, his version of Hamill's novel is available for purchase on DVD. As for "The Golem," someone called The Elder of Ziyon has published the story on his blog. If you read it, and enjoy Davidson's story, I encourage you to seek out The Avram Davidson Treasury. In addition to ample helpings of Davidson's wit, humor, and his mastery of structure, and dialogue, you'll find that many of the best-known Science Fiction and Fantasy writers have contributed Introductions to each story. They can't recommend it highly enough, and neither can I.

Dragon Dave

P.S. Maybe Harrison Ford should rectify this absence in his career and star in a movie about golems. "Indiana Jones and the Golems" has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Related Internet Links
"The Golem" by Avram Davidson

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