'Weird and wonderful'

"'Weird and wonderful'" Continued...

Issue: "Ideal Idol," June 2, 2007

WORLD: You've written five non-fiction books but also five novels. How for you is the writing of fiction different from the writing of nonfiction-and if readers want to sample your novel-writing, which book do you recommend as a starting point?

CHAFETS: Writing fiction is less work and more fun. I once wrote an entire novel that took place in Michigan while sitting in my study in Tel Aviv. I think your readers might like The Project and Hang Time, both of which have a connection to evangelical Christianity and Islamic radicalism. Warning: They are ironic and impious.

Novel writing has shaken my own agnosticism. When you make up a story you are creating a world, breathing life into people, watching them grow from afar, occasionally intervening. I once killed a character, changed my mind and brought him back to life. It's hard not to believe in God when you've had the opportunity to play God.

A taste of Israeli thinking

The two novels of his that Chafets recommends, The Project and Hang Time, are indeed ironic and impious, but they will also give readers a taste of Israeli thinking that's harder to get from either official pronouncements or standard journalistic accounts.

The Project, a Chafets novel that came out a decade ago, is set in the year 2000, when accidental deaths of the president and vice president make Speaker of the House Dewey Goldberg America's first Jewish president. Goldberg, a Democrat, is nominated by his party for election to a full term, but Israel's prime minister is supporting a conservative Republican who also has backing from a Pentecostal preacher with a huge following that expects Armageddon in 2001.

It turns out that the Israeli leader, with the support of the Republican candidate and the reverend, is preparing to take out Iran's nuclear sites as well as other enemy bases-and less hawkish Israelis, along with Goldberg and an influential journalist, are out to stop the risky effort. The plot, along with witty comments on subjects ranging from American politics to gefilte fish, will pull many readers along.

So will the plot of Hang Time, published in 1996: It has less politics but more action than The Project (and also some trash-talking basketball obscenities). In it a Muslim physician-terrorist goes up against an American president who sees glory and political gain in hawkishness: Neither blinks as violence escalates. We come to care about three men: a Detroit Pistons forward-turned-hostage; his big brother (a former tough cop) who pledges to rescue him despite the willingness of Israeli and American leaders to let him die; and the son of the terrorist, torn between hatred of America and love of American basketball.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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