Friday, March 10, 2006

Marty Green

A few years ago, I stumbled across Marty Green's On Foreign Soil on the web. I smacked my forehead, said "Goyishekop! Why didn't I think of something like this?"

I called him and ordered a copy. After it arrived, and I'd started reading it, I ordered copies for my mother and sister Nan, both of whom I knew would find it fun.

The book's a progressive translation of Falk Zolf's autobiography. Marty starts in English, translated from the original Yiddish, throwing in occasional Yiddish words, like "mame" (mother) and "tate" (father). The first time he uses them, he defines them. By the end of the book, it's become the original Yiddish text, with occasional English words thrown in, and you're reading Yiddish.

One thing that makes it work is that it's an engrossing story. You follow the tranformation of Zolf's world from his childhood in a little, Jewish village of pre-WWI Poland to an adulthood in the New World. Note, too, the irony: the first part, where you're immersed in the now-lost, Yiddish world, is told in English, while the last part, in the English-speaking modern world, is told in Yiddish.

I'd love to see it as a movie. Maybe someone can talk Mel Gibson or Stephen Speilberg into it.

In the package, with the book, was a lagniappe. Marty had thrown in a CD of himself singing country tunes and playing Floyd-Cramer-style piano. Pretty well, too. I thought, "This guy is extremely weird. And that's a good thing."

A couple of weeks ago, he called to say he was coming to Colorado, and did I want to host a house concert? I had no idea what he'd do, so I said yes immediately.

It was worth it.

Last night, Marty did a one-man, two-language musical in my living room. Yes, there were sing-alongs. It's a little hard to describe a concert that weaves Marty Robbins tunes into an 1880, I.L. Peretz poem, but it's not to be missed.


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