The little free library is a great idea. Just after our move last year we contributed to our local many times as we discovered duplicates in the process of packing. On one such venture, I discovered a book I wanted to read. Not that I’d heard of it before, but any book with “golem” in the title catches my eye. For the first (and so far only) time, I took a book. Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman’s The Golem of Hollywood proved a fairly quick read for being over 600 pages. I believe the industry term is “potboiler,” but it’s also a page-turner. Nevertheless, it made me think. The story follows a hard-bitten Jewish detective in Los Angeles. Struggling with personal issues, he gets assigned to a bizarre homicide case that eventually takes him to Prague and Oxford, and then back to LA to clinch it. And the killer is a golem. (That’s not a spoiler, since it’s right there in the title.)
Parallel to the modern-day crime drama is the retelling of the biblical tale of the first days of humanity outside the Garden of Eden. One of Adam and Eve’s daughters is headstrong and beautiful and when the tragedy between her brothers plays out she eventually takes her revenge on Cain. Although not explicit about it, for violating the mark of Cain she witnesses the horrors that people will visit upon one another and her redemption is to become the soul that animates the golem of Prague. Not your garden variety golem, she can transform into different shapes, and she stays loyal to the family of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the legendary first creator of the golem of Prague.
One of the frequent topics raised on this blog is how the Bible appears in everyday life, often unnoticed. This novel is an example of that. A further point, which is what stands behind my book Holy Horror, is that the Good Book is understood as mediated by popular culture. Even those few biblical scholars who make it into the limelight can’t compete with the myriad representations of Scripture in the entertainment media. Like The Golem of Hollywood, Holy Horror sees the Bible in the context of monsters. Horror is an outsider genre. Despite the many intelligent, thought-provoking exemplars extant, the default among the more refined is to see horror as something base and low. It can also be a lot of fun. Perhaps not great literature, The Golem of Hollywood is entertaining even as it underscores the continuing influence of the Good Book.