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Authors: Marge Piercy

Body of Glass

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BODY OF GLASS

 

Marge Piercy

 

MICHAEL JOSEPH LTD

Published by the Penguin Group

27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ

Viking Penguin Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia

Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand

 

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

 

First published in Great Britain 1992

 

Copyright © Middlemarsh, Inc., 1991

 

First published in the United States of America as
He, She and It.

 

All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright

reserved above, no part of this publication may be

reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,

or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical,

photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior

written permission of both the copyright owner and the

above publisher of this book

 

Typeset in 11½ on 13 pt Monophoto Palatino

Printed in England by Clays Ltd, St Ives pic

 

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

 

ISBN 0 7181 3537 7

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Any resemblance to actual events

or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

The moral right of the author has been asserted

CONTENTS

Acknowledgements
5

  1. Shira:
    Inside the Corporate Fortress
    8

  2. Shira
    : The Colour of Old Blood
    18

  3. Malkah
    : Malkah Tells Yod a Bedtime Story
    28

  4. Shira
    : Through the Burning Labyrinth
    44

  5. Shira
    : Fifteen Years Before: The Day of Alef
    54

  6. Shira
    : We Know Too Much and Too Little
    69

  7. Malkah
    : Under No Moon
    80

  8. Shira
    : How Shall I Address You?
    92

  9. Shira
    : Revising the Family Album
    100

  1. Malkah
    : Was This a Good Thing to Do?
    108

  2. Shira
    : He, She and It
    115

  3. Shira
    : A Sea Change
    129

  4. Malkah
    : A Double Midwiving
    143

  5. Shira
    : By the Light of the Unyellow Moon
    152

  6. Shira
    : The Same as Me
    164

  7. Malkah:
    Little Girl Lost
    173

  8. Shira
    : The Son of Frankenstein
    186

  9. Shira:
    To Die in the Base
    196

  10. Malkah:
    Malkah’s Bed Song
    207

  11. Shira
    : Base and Treble
    215

  12. Malkah
    : One Door Opens and One Door Closes
    224

  13. Shira:
    The Present
    232

  14. Shira
    : Wine in the Middle of the Night
    248

  15. Malkah
    : Vignettes in the Daily Life of a Golem
    261

  16. Shira
    : Where the Elite Meet
    271

  17. Shira
    : I Never Knew Her
    288

  18. Malkah
    : A Burning Curiosity
    298

  19. Shira
    : How Can We Tell the Dancer from the Dance?
    307

  20. Shira
    : How Much Would You Mind?
    326

  21. Malkah:
    The Robber’s Mistake
    338

  22. Shira:
    The Shape-Shifters
    345

  23. Shira
    : Flashes and Dangerous Structure
    357

  24. Malkah
    : Voices and Visions at Dawn
    372

  25. Shira
    : One Lazarus, Two Lazarus
    381

  26. Shira
    : Living with the Undead
    394

  27. Malkah
    : The Maharal Embattled
    405

  28. Shira
    : Desert Apples
    413

  29. Shira
    : A Matter of Some Finality
    430

  30. Malkah
    : The Battle at the Gates
    441

  31. Shira
    : In Which a Log Is Split
    450

  32. Shira
    : True Confessions and Public Turmoil
    464

  33. Malkah
    : The Work of the Shadchen
    474

  34. Shira
    : Bright Steadfast Star
    482

  35. Shira:
    Lover Come Back
    494

  36. Malkah:
    The Return of Joseph
    507

  37. Shira
    : The Task of Samson
    519

  38. Shira:
    Yod Communicates
    531

  39. Malkah:
    Following After Chava
    537

  40. Shira
    : Shira’s Choice
    544

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

First of all, I want to thank the usual accomplices. My husband Ira Wood reads even the first drafts of my novels, so rough anyone else would think I had lost my mind as well as my way. He studied Czech with me and helped make our research jaunts delightful, even the day we walked twenty miles in the rain and could find no lunch. Claire Simmons of the Wellfleet Library as always put through those interlibrary loans I depend on. Gloria Nardin Watts, dear friend and indefatigable reader, helped me with the galleys.

I would particularly like to thank the head of the Research Department of the State Jewish Museum in Prague, Dr Vladimir Sadek, who was extremely kind to me when I showed up for an appointment that turned out in a mysterious comedy of errors never to have existed. Above all, Jirina Sedinova of the Jewish Museum shared her time and research with me and was very helpful and warm, as well as fun to gossip with about Judah and David and company. I was in Prague in “68 and in the course of writing this novel returned; like Malkah, I remain in love with that city.

I would like to thank a particular student at Loyola in Chicago, where I put in a week of residency one April shortly after I had started this novel. In the course of a lively conversation about science fiction, he told me that when he read
Woman on the Edge of Time,
he couldn’t believe the date of publication, because the alternate universe that Connie blunders into in Chapter 15 anticipated cyberpunk. What’s cyberpunk? I asked, and he started me off. I enjoy William Gibson very much, and I have freely borrowed from his inventions and those of other cyberpunk writers. I figure it’s all one playground. Donna Haraway’s essay A Manifesto for Cyborgs’ was extremely suggestive also; Constance Penley of
Camera Obscura
was kind enough to send it to me.

I have found the newsletters and meetings of the Artificial Intelligence group of the Boston Computer Society stimulating. Lest anybody think that the experiences in the Net and Base in the novel are fantastic make-believe, be aware that even now companies are working on sensor nets that permit a person to “walk into’ data and experience it as real objects in imaginary space. As for the destruction of the ozone layer and the results of global warming, your local library surely has this information, as mine did.

I would like to thank Arthur Waskow for suggesting to me, at a meeting of the Siddur Project of P’Nai Or on which we both worked, that I might find kabbalah valuable to study. I owe a debt, as does everyone interested in kabbalah or the Golem, to Gershom Scholem and, even more, to Moshe Idel and, in understanding Judah Loew, to Andre Neher. My interpretations, of course, are very much my own.

Finally I want to thank Lois Wallace, my agent and friend, for her vigorous efforts on behalf of my work; and Sonny Mehta, the editor of this novel, for his valuable tough reading and helpful hints for cyborg makers.

As always with the novels of mine I most enjoy writing, this has been a strange and instructive journey.

 

to the memory of Primo Levi

 

His books were important to me.

I miss his presence in the world.

 

one

 

Shira

INSIDE THE CORPORATE FORTRESS

Josh, Shira’s ex-husband, sat immediately in front of her in the Hall of Domestic Justice as they faced the view screen, awaiting the verdict on the custody of Ari, their son. A bead of sweat slid down the furrow of his spine ― he wore a backless business suit, white for the formality of the occasion, very like her own ― and it was hard even now to keep from delicately brushing his back with her scarf to dry it. The Yakamura-Stichen dome in the Nebraska desert was conditioned, of course, or they would all be dead, but it was winter now and the temperature was allowed to rise naturally to thirty Celsius in the afternoon as the sun heated the immense dome enclosing the corporate enclave. Her hands were sweating too, but from nervousness. She had grown up in a natural place and retained the ability to endure more heat than most Y-S gruds. She kept telling herself she had nothing to fear, but her stomach was clenched hard and she caught herself licking her lips again and again. Every time she called up time on her internal clock and read it in the corner of her cornea, it was at most a minute later than when last she had evoked it.

BOOK: Body of Glass
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