My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

Beth Kaplan logo

the big fight

My body is at war with my spirit. A bug or a virus is trying to get in, and I am trying with everything in my power to keep it out: rest, chicken soup, oil of oregano, juice. I’ve done little for days except work on my speech and on the non-fiction conference, and begin to re-read my book “Finding the Jewish Shakespeare” in preparation for the talk on my great-grandfather and questions afterward. I worked on this material for 25 years, but the book was published in 2007 and since then, I’ve let all those facts go.

I have to say – I’m impressed by the 250-page book and, yes, by the woman in her thirties and forties who wrote it. When I started, I had no idea how to do a massive research project where most of the material I needed was in New York and in Yiddish or archaic Russian – and I a single mother with no funding or backing and very little confidence. Yet I kept going. At one point, after not finding a publisher, I did give up, and it was Ruth Gay, a New York writer I never met who’d become a colleague and friend, who urged me to keep going. You have a good book, she wrote. Don’t stop now. So I took heart and moved ahead.

I really thought a book 25 years in the making about such a titanic figure would ignite the Jewish book reading population, would at least be used, even without footnotes, in university courses on Yiddish theatre or Jewish life in America – in other words, would sell. Ha. As my cousin Ted wrote to me, after an attempt to read it, “Too many details!!” But that’s the joy, for a researcher – the bits and pieces of detail that make up a fascinating, accomplished, tumultuous life. So now, rereading it for the first time in years, I discover that yes, I am very proud of the work she did, floundering in her study with toppling piles of paper and two teenagers running riot in the house. The chief expert on the Yiddish theatre, when I called early in the process to introduce myself and ask her advice, told me I was wasting my time – that a book about a Yiddish playwright by someone who didn’t speak Yiddish would be worthless. Nevertheless, I persisted.

And, as I like to repeat in moments of doubt, the famous and admirable Tony Kushner did write a blurb that said the book is “a witty, shrewd, elegant book that tells a story of vital importance.” So there, chief expert.

And now I’m preparing to leave for New York early Tuesday morning, for two events that will shine a spotlight on the man and his work and my book, and I’ve got a bug trying to invade. So there’s a certain stress here. Nothing more to be done.  I’m in my bathrobe, under a blanket, with the hot sun shining through my study window, and will stay here for much of the day (except for a meeting this afternoon about the Christmas pageant. Yes. We need to get organized for next year. Already.) I will eat soup, I will pack, I will think positive thoughts, perhaps I will keep my fingers crossed. Perhaps you can too.

Here’s a beautiful piece of writing to keep you company on a sunny Sunday:

P.S. I just had an uplifting note from Chris on Gabriola, to whom I’d sent my screed of woe: basically saying, ARE YOU A DRAMA QUEEN? Why are you anxious? It’ll go well, you’re a great speaker with a great story to tell, don’t drag yourself down.

And he’s right. I AM a drama queen, and I do drag myself down with anxiety. This is a big thing for me, a big talk in New York City, so much of the event a complete unknown, and part of me is understandably nervous. And so … a bug, and me huddled in the sun like a fading orchid.

Get over yourself, girl. Get on with it. Onward.



4 Responses to “the big fight”

  1. theresa says:

    Take care of yourself, Beth. Have you ever tried fresh ginger tea? Very thin slices (needn't peel them), lots of them, and a few slices of lemon? I use a wide mug and the steam is heavenly. I swear it works.

  2. beth says:

    Thank you, Theresa, I'll add that to my list. Just got to get out to get some ginger, but it's a nice mild day. I'll be fine. I'm a drama queen!

  3. Freshly squeezed lemon (and sometimes honey) every morning in hot water. First thing, before all the rest of your day. Kick-starts your liver (and also keeps flu away, it would seem). And, Chris is right. You could get on stage with double pneumonia and still have everyone hanging on to your every word. I remember when you gave a talk to my research group in Montpellier…

  4. beth says:

    What Lynn is referring to is that during my talk, my bra came undone and I was acutely uncomfortable – finally had to deal with it and explain why I was writhing around in my chair. She said it was definitely a first for her linguistics research group. Between Chris telling me to buck up and you guys giving me recipes, I feel loved and cared for and that's the best medicine of all. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.


Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.


I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.


Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


Juliet in Paris, Spain and Beyond
Juliet is a Canadian who’s lived for decades in Paris and writes about her travels and the many things that interest her.