Yori Yanover: An Interview

Yori Yanover is an intense personality. Hey, the guy has a Gawker category named after him, Yori Is the Next Shmuley.

He’s also the author of The Cabalist’s Daughter, which we told you about yesterday. It’s a novel that’s sort of 24-meets-Apocalypse Now-meets-the-Apocalypse novel about the Lubavitcher Rebbe dying, his followers creating a clone, and the clone turning out to be a girl.

Last night, at Mimaamakim‘s remarkable Jewish open mic, we got a chance to meet in person. It’s always awkward to meet someone whom you’ve just written about. Square that when it’s onstage in front of a bunch of people. Factor in any potential uncomfortability that might come about if the book wasn’t a good one. Fortunately, it was, and fortunately, Mr. Yanover is just as large and funny and unhinged in real life as he is on the page — and even more Douglas Adams-dik — and so all was good on the Lower East Side.

A few days previous, we’d corresponded via email. Here’s our first e-meeting, in all its unexpurgated glory. He opened by talking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
which, somehow, was not surprising.

How did you first get the idea for writing The Cabalist’s Daughter?

The moment I opened the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I knew I wanted to do to Yiddishkeit what Douglas Adams had done to science and philosophy: Turn it into a comic book, into brain candy. This is definitely a work of love.

The Messiah is a 20-year-old sexy redhead who’s a Hasidic Jew and sometimes — allegedly — dresses like Wonder Woman. Why her?

First, because I’m the father of a daughter (who’s almost 18 — will be this summer). Also, in Hasidic tradition, as well as in the general culture, the Princess represents the spirit of the nation (in Likutei Moharan, more than anywhere else). Knesset Israel is also [represented by] a young woman in Song of Songs. So there’s a lot in our common memory that makes a young woman very precious and standing for everything that’s good in us.

Your first book was a nonfiction book about the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, published in Hebrew. There are a lot of specific characters with more than a passing resemblance to actual figures in Chabad. What’s your background with Lubavitch?

Posted on April 29, 2009

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