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I'm Looking for Kadak


Despite being "so far beyond atheist there isn't a term for it," Ellison remains a Jew. A Jewish sensibility -- a Jewish sense of values -- pervades his work, even in stories that do not ostensibly involve Judaism, such as "Paladin of the Lost Hour."

But nothing is as Jewish as "I'm Looking for Kadak," published in 1974. Loaded with Yiddish terms and slang, and featuring a plot that depends heavily on Judaic ritual, the story is in first person and highly conversational, so it is made for reading aloud. Ellison attacks it with a terrific Yiddish vocal style and lots of hilarious voices. There are in jokes, both written (such as the character whose name resembles that of the late Zionist activist Meir Kahane) and vocal (Evsise pronounces "baedeker" in four syllables). For gentiles who are not at home here, it'll remind you of certain voices in the movies of Mel Brooks.

Fortunately, the glossary of Yiddish terms which appeared in Approaching Oblivion is reproduced with the cassette, and Ellison interjects a few helpful explanations along the way. But anyone can appreciate his satire of religious cults, which appear here in the guise of the Church of the Apostates and the Slaves of the Rock, with references to The Tabernacle of the Mouth, The True Believers of Suffering, the Caucus Race of the Malforms, the Lair of the Profundity of the Unspeakable Trihll, and the Archdruid of Nothingness.

This recording has the same production values of the pulp reminiscences cassette: It's mixed low -- heavy on the bass -- and one must crank the volume quite a bit. But Ellison speaks engagingly to the listener before he begins, and you can just make out the sound of a female (director Shelley Levinson, perhaps) trying to stifle her laughter in the background during the painfully funny pupik incident. A real winner.

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