Matthue Roth A Go-Go

Matthue Roth’s post-marital drive-by of San Francisco on his whirlwind book tour is almost over but I was lucky tonight to catch his reading at Michelle Tea’s Radar series at the SF Public Library. Besides being a GREAT excuse to finally check out the “new” library, I got to hear a chapter of his new memoir Yom Kippur A Go-Go, and get myself a signed copy.
If you’ve never read Matthue’s work or caught one of his frenetically, upsettingly, hermeneutically delicious poetry slams, then do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I only got home with my copy an hour ago and I’ve already devoured 3 chapters of Matthue’s life in Washington, D.C. as he’s becoming observant while trying to deal with girls, hippies and the corporate machine. I’m reading this stuff about the discomfort of becoming meticulous around your less frum friends, early-stage paranoia around Shabbos observance and the sorrow of going home Friday night without a dinner invitation and I’m feeling, well, just. so. there.
With Matthue’s permission (or at least his forgiveness) here’s an excerpted footnote about the “Shabbat Shalom” song that was a great insert in a vignette about staying by a frum family for Shabbos in Silver Spring, and being inadvertently condescended to by 5 year-old kids doing outreach:

The full lyrics to this traditional Jewish folk song are “Shabbat Shalom-hey! / Shabbat Shalom-hey! / Shabbat Shabbat Shabbat Shaaaaah-baat Sha-loooom.” Every Jew knows it.Seriously, my friend Mendy’s two-year old daughter knows it, and she doesn’t even know words. What happens among Jews, though, is that we have this other cultural consciousness on top of the regular American one, except it’s so tremulous that it almost feels artificial. We don’t know the “Shabbat Shalom” song the way we know the McDonalds jingle; we learn it in from our parents and in Hebrew School, and we don’t get much additional reinforcement in the outside world. It’s this lack that sends us crawling back to Judaism, pushing aside the detritus of our memories to find something real to validate our religious experience, even if it starts with taking something as insignificant as the “Shabbat Shalom-Hey!” song and building those memories into a real, complex and culturally valid portrait of our religion.

Visit Matthue’s website at matthue.com.

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