GOLEM: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions in the Making of the Artificial Anthropoid by Moshe Idel is a nonfiction book I read years ago about the kabbalistic view of the golem: how do you make one (there are several versions)? What does the ritual signify? Is a golem truly human — for example, could it make up the minimum number of Jewish men to sit shiva (probably not)? This is extremely dry as Idel isn’t dealing with folklore and the kabbalists have no interest in what a golem might actually do; the legends of golems as protectors or folktales of them as bumbling servants only developed in the 19th century (the 16th century legend of the golem of Prague doesn’t go back any earlier). The kind of reference that makes me glad I have so many books.
THE GOLEM: Mystical Tales from the Ghetto of Prague by Chayim Bloch is an early 20th century book I read some years back under the impression the tales were authentic traditions rather than 19th century retcons. That said, this is an entertaining collection of faux folktales as Rabbi Judah Ben Loew and his servant “Joseph” outwit Christians seeking to hurt their people while the golem, effective as a protector, keeps bumbling simple household tasks.
THE JOURNALS OF PROFESSOR GUTHRIDGE by Kyt Wright is a novella about a 19th century occult investigator tackling various supernatural threats the main one being whatever crushed the skulls of some Jewish immigrants as if they were paper. And why on Earth is there so much clay around the crime scenes? This is adequate reading that suffers from a few anachronisms (nobody in the 19th century used the phrase “she has feelings for you” — and it’s odd to describe a Jew as having “some interest” in the Torah); a bigger problem is that Guthridge at one point rapes his lover but it’s treated more as a ghastly faux pas than rape. I will give Wright points for an ingenious solution to getting the magic talisman out of the golem’s mouth — just blast it with enough machine gun fire that the paper falls out of the collapsing head.
THE ALCHEMIST’S DOOR by Lisa Goldstein has Elizabethan occultist John Dee fleeing a demon across Europe, ending up in Prague at the court of occult-obsessed Rudolph II. There Dee meets Judah ben Loew, who has just discovered one of the 36 Lame Wufniks (the same mythical figures I used in No Good Deed Goes Unpunished) lives in the Prague ghetto. Rudolph wants to find and kill the man, destabilizing all of creation, in the belief he will be able to build a new reality; can Dee, ben Loew and the golem Yossel hold him at bay? The golem here is both a Hulk-like destroyer (making this Herb Trimpe cover appropriate — contrary to Wikipedia it has no connection to the Golem in Strange Tales above) and a Data-like artificial life-form yearning for humanity. A good historical fantasy.
JOE GOLEM, OCCULT DETECTIVE: The Outer Dark by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Patric Reynolds is somewhat stronger than the first volume. Joe investigates fanatics plotting to summon Lovecraftian outsiders to Earth, then battles a woman suffering from a unique form of possession; meanwhile Simon Church decides Joe’s girlfriend Lori is asking too many inconvenient questions … Makes Simon out to be a real shit, manipulating Joe as much as the men in Scent of May Rain.
#SFWApro. Top cover by Ernie Chan.