Details: (c) 1977 Edward Whittemore; Pub Magnum 1979; ISBN 0-417-03400-8
Verdict: Sinai Tapestry is strangely compelling despite being weird.
Reasons for reading it: rysmiel read Chaim Potok's The book of lights at my recommendation, and suggested that if I enjoyed that I might get on with Whittemore.
How it came into my hands: lethargic_man brought it with him to lend to me when he came to visit last week, which was much appreciated.
I was most of the way through Sinai Tapestry before it started to grow on me. I don't know if it actually counts as magic realism but it has many of the features of the genre that I don't get on with. It veers between surreal and silly, and its style of humour doesn't really appeal to me. Somehow it kept me reading though. I think it's that there is something very human about the characters, even though they are patently ludicrous such as being 7' 7'' tall or several thousand years old.
Sinai Tapestry is not allegory, or at least not in any way I could pick up; it just wants total suspension of disbelief. And once I stopped trying to find the hidden meaning or the underlying rules or any other such features that this kind of novel often have, it works as a story on its own terms extremely bizarre terms. I never got into the humour as such, but the book worked surprisingly well as a serious piece that just happened to be placed in an extremely surreal and nonsensical frame. It doesn't entirely refrain from moralizing, but the moralizing it does is beautifully subtle, and in general the novel really made me think and had an emotional impact, even though consciously I thought I was reading something so surreal it bordered on the nonsensical. It does an amazingly good job of confusing what might just possibly be real world history with its own bizarre alt-history version, too.
I can't really see how this is similar to The book of lights, but I'm still glad I read it.
Note to blurb writers: nothing ever benefits from being compared to LotR. I guess one day it will happen that someone will write something as good, but I really hope that when that does occur, the marketing people will have enough sense not to put that stupid comparison on the cover.