“Well, I understand your intent in writing this sympathetic account of my disturbing life, Elie. And I truly appreciate it. I was glad to hear you laughing with Eli’s oldest daughter yesterday. I particularly loved her reaction when you said, after referring to his incomparable charm if he loved you ‘but if he didn’t like you– and he usually knew within a minute– he could be Adolf Hitler.’ You could practically hear her smiling when you said that, she gave that knowing little sigh,” said the skeleton with a dry chuckle.
“Nothing like a bracing, unalloyed whiff of honesty, Elie.
“Now, unless your father curses you, vilifies you, persecutes you, starves you, whips you, shoves you into an oven– it would enrage you to hear someone say your father is Adolf Hitler. Even if Hitler actually was your father, and he was thankfully nobody’s father, you’d hate to hear somebody say that your father was Hitler. Yet Eli’s eldest raised no objection– because of the truth of it and how good it felt to hear someone who loved her father acknowledge that other awful side of him. We all have another side, of course.
“Now, if the fucking rabbi at First Hebrew had opined to her that Eli could be like Hitler if he didn’t like you, she’d have been rightfully incensed. I’d feel sorry for the rabbi, if he were ever stupid enough to vent that way to Eli’s daughter. But anyway, I offer Eli as Hitler just as an example.
“We both loved Eli and we both, at the same time, understand, 100%, that, if he disliked you, he wouldn’t hesitate to kick you down a flight of stairs if the occasion demanded. You are trying to get at the larger truth here, rather than the comfort of lies, no matter how soothing, and I thought I’d spare you having to pontificate about it yourself,” he gave a little wink, or as close as a skeleton can come to a wink.
“Take the infamous, or famous, Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Published in Russian in 1904, it incited a wave of pogroms in god-forsaken hellholes like Truvovich. Within a few years, when it had been translated into many languages, this account of the leaders of world Jewry secretly meeting to discuss exactly how they were controlling the world, poisoning it against itself, the Times of London exposed it as recycled fiction written by a popular anti-Semite in a novel years earlier. Verbatim. That was in 1911. Was that the end of the matter?
“You know the answer to that, and I ask it for the benefit of your readers, if any. If books are read a generation or two from now, I hope this will be among them. You are writing like a man on fire, Elie, hurrying to set down everything you’ve learned so far before the clock runs out on you.
“Perhaps you are a man on fire. You may wind up like Martin Luther King, Jr., describing a beautiful, promised valley on the other side of a mountain you’ll never set foot in. Who is to say? But as for The Protocols of the Elders of Zion— you know what the Jew haters said about the Times of London and its definitive proof that the book was a plagiarized work of fiction?
“Of course– the expose in the Times was proof, as if any more was needed, not that the Protocols were fake, but, on the contrary, that the Times of London was a vicious and persuasive propaganda machine controlled by international Jewry. Another proof of the truth contained in the Protocols. Instantly transformed, the purportedly rational, objective, conclusive denunciation of the Protocols was just the latest lie perpetrated on the world by the fucking Jews. See how insidious and terrifyingly cunning the Jew is! You dig the beauty of this, the demonic ingenuity of it?
“Fifteen years later, Hitler, in Mein Kampf, could state emphatically that the world would be a far better place if everyone in it read and digested the Protocols. The Czarist forgery is still being sold, in countless languages and editions, mind you, along with the newly annotated Mein Kampf. According to Umberto Eco, who gives a learned source for it at the end of his wonderful, dense In the Prague Cemetery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has sold more copies than any book besides the Bible. Check that shit out, Elie, ask Jeeves about that one.
“It’s the nature of this slippery, mostly irrational world we live in, to believe that which confirms our emotional biases and heartfelt beliefs and to reject that which purports to prove, no matter how clearly and irrefutably, that we’re somehow overlooking some contradiction, somehow mistaken.
“Your former buddy, a bright, funny, sensitive guy, a very fine writer — also an oblivious, empathy-challenged person, threatened by what lies beneath his glib gloss on things, to the point of paranoia, as he works odd jobs and pretends at all costs that he’s not a multi-millionaire. Both things are true and do not contradict or cancel each other in any way: he’s smart and insightful, he’s a moral retard in certain ways.
“Multiple things are often true, no, always true, simultaneously. Though there is also, sometimes, a decisive truth to be discerned in certain cases. Global warming, poverty, the persistence of hatred, the appeal of demagogues, the hellishness of war, shit like that. It seems to me that you’ve stumbled on some real truth here about the nature of the individual, not of course that’s it’s original with you. But I am thankful for it, in any event.
“Yes, I was a monster who caused a lot of pain and destruction, guilty as charged. Yes, I was a sensitive, funny, brilliant, tragic man who always had the best of intentions.
“It’s a horror story, if you focus mainly on the swath of hurt monster Irv carved through the world he walked through.
“It’s a tragedy if you take into account what it was well within my powers to have been, instead of a monster.
“A friend of yours called this Book of Irv a labor of love. That makes it, if you can write it completely and truly, a tragedy nobody should be able to get to the bottom of.”