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July 18, 2003 - Image 59

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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er-turned-businessman seems to feel
accused and baffled by the question.
When asked the same question,
Dubner answers thoughtfully; and it's
clear that this fatherless man has given
this much thought.
"I'm slavishly engaged in trying to be
a complete father," he says. "By com-
plete I mean beyond teaching and giv-
ing exciting adventures. I just want to
be around a lot."
Since the book has been published,
Dubner has heard from Harris' moth-
er, who sent flowers, chocolates and a
motherly note of congratulations say-
ing that she loved the book. He got a
message from Harris saying that he was
looking forward to reading it.
While writing the book, he again
dreamed about Harris, but more relat-
ed to the anxieties of writing a book
than hero worship. These past few
years, he's been watching a lot of foot-
ball, and the Steelers are again one of
his favorite teams.
I ask to watch the tape of the
Immaculate Reception, but it's in his
office. Lately, he often views football
games snuggled with his 2 1 /2-year- old
son and one-year-old daughter who
like "the big, bright, noisy guys trying
to knock people down."
He closes the book with the hope
that his children find people to love
and admire, discover ideas that are
worth living for and do good in the
world and, above all, "may they be
their own heroes."
Dubner, 39, now has three new
book projects in the works, all very dif-
ferent from the memoirs he has pub-
lished. One is a book about the psy-
chology of money, another is on ethics,
and the third is for a new Jewish biog-
raphy series. ❑

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The author says that "a light bulb
moment" in writing the book was not
about Franco, but about himself, just
before his son Solomon — named for
his late father — was born. He realized
that in becoming a father, the notion
of hero worship would shift, that soon
he would be in the position of hero,
needed by someone else, at least for a
few years.
A former writer and editor at the
New York Times Magazine, Dubner
read widely about the psychology and
mythology of hero worship; he also
looked into literary and religious
sources.
He recognizes that the Christianity
he grew up with "may be the purest
form of hero worship the world has
ever encountered. ... I had been raised
with a taste for a messiah. I simply
substituted a football player for the
Son of God," he writes.
He describes the very different out-
look of Judaism, how in the Talmud a
hero is seen not as "the Great Man
who defeats armies, but the plain man
who defeats his own flaws." For the
no-longer-awestruck Dubner, the
notion that heroes — whether great
scholars or people of huge compassion
or biblical figures — are imperfect
beings is inspiring.
He writes: "The great shock of read-
ing Torah as an adult was seeing the
humanity of its heroes. Not only were
their flaws not buffed away; the flaws
were central to their character — and,
I now saw, central to the Jewish under-
standing of heroism."
Dubner, who was the ghostwriter of
a book of the late Lubavitcher rebbe's
teachings, Toward a Meaningful Life,
also describes the kind of hero worship
that surrounds the rebbe.
Although Dubner never met him, he
says that he "came to admire not just
his leadership and charisma but his
generosity of intellectual spirit." Many
of his insights, as well as his footnotes,
proved important when Dubner was
beginning to seriously explore Judaism.
He also writes about comic-book
superheroes, noting that Superman,
Batman, Spider Man and Captain
America were all Jewish creations, and
that the Guardian of the Universe, a wiz-
ened sage in the Green Lantern series,
was modeled after David Ben-Gurion.
One surprise is that although his
hero remains elusive, Dubner becomes
friendly with his mother, who shares
some striking similarities with his own
late mother. From these two women,
he also learns a lot about heroism.
When Dubner asks Franco about
what kind of father he is, the ballplay-

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