I made my niece sister a painting for her bat-mitzvah. So of course I would be doing the same for my nephew. I don’t paint much these days, but making a gift of a painting for a major life event has become a bit of a tradition for me. It’s not the cheapest present–oil paints are expensive–but it gives me a project. I always feel good when I’m working on a canvas.
A few years ago, figuring out what, exactly to paint for my niece wasn’t easy; her torah portion was all about laws and rituals, without much of a plot or anything visual. But this time I was luckier. My nephew would be reading a bit of the Hebrew bible with a good story, from near the beginning of Genesis. (Most of the good stories are in Genesis.) This portion’s name is sometimes translated as “go forth” or “leave”. “And YHWH said to Abram, ‘go from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house to the land that I’ll show you.’” This is the bit where Amrab/Abraham is told his descendants will be many, that they will be a “great nation”. God speaks to our hero thus:
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month when you gather the land’s produce, you shall celebrate YHWH’s holiday seven days. [...] And on the first day you shall take fruit of appealing trees, branches of palms, boughs of thick trees, and willows of a wadi, and you shall be happy in front of YHWH, your God, seven days. [...] Every citizen in Israel shall live in booths, so your generations will know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am YHWH, your God.”
–Leviticus 23:39–43, Translated by Richard Elliot Friedman
Those of you who celebrate Christmas may not give a lot of thought to those who don’t. Sure, you may say “happy holidays” and support having a menorah next to the Christmas tree downtown. But the mere existence of Christmas affects people who don’t celebrate it.
Why do people re-read books? In particular, why do any of us re-read fiction, ever? We’ve already read the damn thing, and we know the ending. But the question itself presupposes that a novel is just a story. That events mean only what they mean.
Happily, the first issue of Sandman: Overture very much feels like the Sandman of old. The art by J.H. Williams III is multilayered almost to the point of being baroque without seeming gratuitously ornate or difficult to follow. While Williams doesn’t attain the disturbing, nearly mystical beauty he did in Alan Moore’s Promethea series, he doesn’t have to. Sandman has always been about portraying the personal, small side of grand events. His style of taking a backseat to the action serves the story well: The images here are beautiful and decorative where they have to be, stark and ornate where the pictures need to focus the reader on Neil Gaiman’s beautiful words.