At the Kill Your Darlings First Book Club event in September, Eli Glasman will discuss the inspiration behind his debut novel, The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew. Read an excerpt below from this hilarious and brave young adult book, which tells the story of a young man growing up in Caulfield’s Orthodox Jewish community and grappling with his sexuality.
The only two kosher flavours of Slurpee were lime and raspberry, and I liked to mix them half and half. Josh got Coke flavour.
We sat on the steps of the 7-Eleven and spoke about Angry Birds. Once we’d talked the topic dry we both fell silent. I shifted nervously on the steps. I couldn’t figure out why Josh wanted to hang out with me. Simply having him ask, though, made me feel a little better about upsetting him the other day but now I wished I could think of something to say.
‘People really stare at you,’ Josh said, taking a sip of his drink.
I looked up to see some tall non-Jewish guy by the traffic lights watching us. I hardly noticed being stared at.
‘I guess so,’ I said. I took a deep breath in and checked the time on my iPhone.
Josh rubbed the back of his neck and grimaced at the sun. ‘I wanna show you something,’ he said. He unzipped his backpack and pulled out a large pair of headphones. ‘Cost me nearly two hundred dollars,’ he said.
He handed me the headphones. I examined them and pretended to be impressed.
‘You’ve got to listen to them,’ he said, and took a tiny, ancient iPod from his pocket. I leaned in and looked at the screen while he scrolled through the songs.
‘I don’t listen to non-Jewish music,’ I said.
‘I… um… I don’t know. It’s just not allowed.’
Josh shook his head. ‘You should know the reasons to the things you do.’
I shrugged my shoulders and ran my finger down the side of the Slurpee cup, gathering droplets of condensation. ‘I know the reasons to the big things,’ I said, before sucking the water off my finger. ‘You can’t know every little reason. You just have to trust the rabbis.’
Josh closed his eyes and ruffled the front of his shaggy hair. When he took his hand away, his hair looked exactly the way it had before.
‘Maybe it’s because of the lyrics,’ he suggested. ‘You’re not allowed to listen to bad lyrics.’
I smiled as he said this, feeling a slight well of pride watching him mull over questions of religious law instead of just dismissing it. ‘Could be,’ I said. I knew this was my father’s reasoning, but I was pretty sure there was more to it than that.
Josh continued to scroll through his iPod. ‘I have Sigur Ros,’ he said. ‘They speak Icelandic, so you won’t know what they’re saying.’
‘Oh,’ I said. I knew it still wasn’t quite okay, but I figured now I’d need to offer some reason to him or he’d think I was being stubborn for the sake of it.
‘My soul might know that the lyrics are inappropriate,’ I offered lamely.
Josh raised one eyebrow. ‘Your soul speaks Icelandic?’
‘No… I… nothing. Fine, I’ll have a listen.’
‘All right, face me.’
I turned to Josh and he lowered the headphones over my head, resting them softly on my ears. He leaned in closely to do this, and his cologne melded sweetly with the passionate cry of an Icelandic muso singing angelic gibberish. I felt a rise in my chest as I listened, as if I had been right with my guess and was now eavesdropping on the music’s conversation with my soul. Josh kept his eyes on mine and smiled and my heart froze and then contracted with a sudden grip of guilt.
‘It’s nice,’ I said, taking off the headphones. I gave him a quick smile and loosened my jaw, realising that I’d been clenching my teeth. I then touched the rubber band on my wrist.
‘You know the lead singer’s a one-eyed homosexual who plays base with a cello bow,’ Josh said.
Josh passed the headphones between his hands and kept his eyes down. I could still hear the faint squeak of the music.
‘I wanted to apologise for being a bit of a dick the other day,’ Josh said. ‘I just… don’t like people coming over to my place. I know you were trying to be nice. And it did help, to be honest. My brother was a lot nicer for the rest of the day, which he isn’t always. I will pay you back, though. I just needed to buy these because they were on sale.’
‘You don’t have to pay me back. Your brother said he’d do it.’
‘Do you believe him?’
‘Well… I do. This is between me, him and God now.’ Hearing myself, I realised that maybe I was being arrogant. I really did just want to help. ‘But, if you want to, you can pay me back whenever,’ I said. ‘There’s no rush, though. I don’t really need the money.’
Josh turned off his music and slipped the headphones back into his backpack. ‘Are you, like, really rich?’ he whispered, as he re-zipped the bag.
I took a large sip of my drink. ‘Sort of,’ I replied. ‘My grandmother, my mum’s mum, sends my sister and me money. My mum’s gone and my father doesn’t earn that much and it’s pretty expensive living in Caulfield.’
‘Yeah, well. I know I’m lucky.’
Josh sighed and straightened out his legs. I realised that we were probably late for maths, but I didn’t really care.
Kill Your Darlings First Book Club: The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew
Wednesday September 17
6.30 for 7pm
The First Book Club is free, but bookings are required.
RSVP to [email protected] to confirm your place.
Happy Valley: Design, Books, Art
294 Smith St