That’s what they called me in grade school. When I came home crying as if death was imminent, my parents consoled me with their heavy European accents, “Sticks and Stones can break your bones but vords can never harm you.” Maybe Vords can’t but words do—and they did. I didn’t cry as a child from the slips and falls and bumps as much as I did from the words that so often wounded me, restrained me, emboldened me, embarrassed me—the words that shaped my life."
That words can elate and damage beyond repair is the essence of this achingly witty romp through the life and times of an interbred interfaith invincible celebrity young woman with a lexicon that has shaped her in more ways than she can repent! Aliza Davidovit offers a rich titillating read into the life of a Jewish American with Parisian roots, and strong heartstrings to family, hearth and her singlehood. The Words that shaped Aliza, could very well be the words that shape you or me in her situation. Her conversations yield from the mundane to the Wikipediac with entries like “something”, “lie” and Kakorrhaphiophobic, all in the same breath! This is more than just a single (ie., digitally single) girl’s To Do list, of Words to Conquer, Dump or Throw out the window, but the rants of a life very surmountable. Career pangs, cousin rivalries, misogyny, polygamy—every word has been treated with much observation, deliberation, and many times pomp as well! That Aliza’s lexical odyssey chronicles her lifelong battle with words that shaped her into the headstrong individual and former TV producer and editor-in-chief that she is today, is something you catch on early enough in the narrative, as she goes about prescribing words she thinks others should think about too. This non-fictive account captures the lows and highs of being a woman in different stages of her metamorphosis, and holds court on the hilarious incidents and high flying people she has met in her life from comedian Jackie Mason to Larry King to singer Michael Bolton or Oprah or Benjamin Netanyahu. While the diction is predominantly Jewish American, Yiddish-hybrid noir, it is with much surprise you are led through raunchy American slang, and a heartily promiscuous word choice. Ms. Davidovit accosts you with “Orgams, shmorgasm. I find it the biggest manipulative fraud in existence. So many mighty men and innocent women have fallen for that one moment’s bliss.” She adds with redemption, “The only thing that is ever decisively over is an orgasm.” Everything about this book smells of discomfort, and a comeuppance with one’s role and place in society as the braveheart warns: “I won't let society put me in a box - I'll be in a box when I'm dead, in this life time I won't be limited by closed minded definitions.”
Interviewing Aliza Davidovit
It was a pleasure to be in conversation with the ‘Queen of Questions,’ Aliza Davidovit, Editor in chief of WritEffect Productions, a New York based publishing company that brings out interviews with high profile individuals, histories and holocaust memoirs
Arundati: Your book is a sinful shortcut to your memoirs! Would you agree or disagree? The Idiots Guide to... Happiness? Because it is a feel good story about a regular Jewish American woman, who finds the fictional G-spot in the wicked world of words.
Aliza: That's a beautifully phrased question but I reject it in its entirety. I disagree that it is a "sinful" shortcut. For certain a near 100 thousand word book is hardly a shortcut. This book, if anything, is heartfelt journey through my pain and growth (with God as the guiding source of strength throughout my life). For a woman who never slept around, who has been too nice her whole life, who has spared many people pain by not outing them or suing them, who has walked away from hard situations as a perfect lady, I'd say it's rather Godly, not sinful at all. Not even sure how that adjective, "sinful" plays a role at all. What the memoir is however, is a very unique way of telling a story. Many people will tell their stories chronologically, others will highlight certain episodic events, etc. I used words instead as the trampolines to tell mine. It's hardly an idiot's guide to happiness because only a wise person can choose to be happy and an idiot often chooses to be "merry" there is a mammoth qualitative difference between the two. In addition only an idiot would see the idiot in it and wise man would see the wisdom. And finally to put oneself out there in such a vulnerable way for others to use my words against me is hardly hitting the fictional G-spot. It's about understanding the building blocks that structured my life, in this case those blocks are words, and about reassembling them in such a way that I can be proud of and understand to some measure the figurative house I have built for myself.
Arundati: What are your political views or how political are you? You come off as a complex conservative newswoman?
Aliza: I tend to hold conservative values but I have no problem taking issue with conservatives or democrats who behave like idiots. At the end of the day we are one humanity and even the most extreme Liberal would take a blood transfusion from a conservative to save his life and vice versa. Going back to words, I think that the vicious rhetoric from both parties is not advancing the well-being of America.
Arundati: What is your favorite dictionary? Has the internet cheapened the dictionary? Despite your humorous rant on e-words, one notices many of your footnotes reference a lot of wiki and dictionary.com entries.
Aliza: It's an interesting question. I read Random House Webster’s College Dictionary to write the book. Post-its are still sticking out from it like an over-hairy porcupine. I only used Dictionary.com as a modern day tool to quickly cut and paste definitions to accommodate the quick paced life of a journalist. In addition, new words are being added to the modern lexicon all the time and the Internet dictionaries update much faster than print. This book, however, was not intended to tickle the G-spot of academics, it was meant to inspire the hearts of people and also to make people laugh and to examine things in unique ways. That being said, with the full force of my journalistic integrity and professionalism, I ensured that the book was as accurate as possible and operated with great deliberation and conscientiousness throughout. As for the Internet cheapening the dictionary? Only mankind can sanctify or cheapen the tool he finds in his hand.
Arundati: The absence of some words in your book left me floored, have to admit. Like Media, News, Incest and Democracy. Have you substituted these with lots of Yiddish phrases to offer up a more hybrid educational odyssey?
Aliza: Some will see the glass half empty, others as half full.
Arundati: Oprah and (Benjamin) Netanyahu merit separate words in your lexicon! How flattered they must be? Tell us something about your relationship with them or why they feature in the Words that shaped you?
Aliza: I think the chapters speak for themselves.
Arundati: What’s a technological invention man couldn’t do without you think?
Aliza: At one time we did without them all. Soon they can do without us.
Arundati: Should girls marry these days? Or should they just go chasing their dreams instead? There’s a place where you’ve talked about the illusion of orgasm, and how it’s simply not worth the toil, when reading your book might be a better way of spending time…IS there no place for courtship and is the world getting overawed by its own heterosexuality?
Aliza: There are many times when my book is tongue-in-cheek. Those ambiguities further lend to the dual face of words and how we can fit them into the argument we want to make. I tend to be an old-fashioned woman who believes in marriage and children. It is really all I ever wanted. But then life got in the way. Can a woman have it all? Maybe. I wasn't that blessed. But if I had to make a choice tomorrow to be the next Barbara Walters or a wife and mother, I'd pick the latter.
Arundati: “I approach every interview as a blind date and try to get to know the person deep within. (When I go out on a blind date, they always feel like they’re being interviewed.” How seriously have your interviewees taken on the role of the blind date? Would you make a good crime investigator?
Aliza: I try and get to know the person instead of the image and to go beyond the canned answers. If they have a heart, I will find it. Begins and ends there.
Arundati: What has language got to do with literacy? You speak three.
Aliza: I have a whole chapter on words and how they have advanced society and how they also mess us up.
Arundati: Who’s your favorite Millionaire and why?
Aliza: My favorite people are not measured by their financial worth.
Arundati: Aliza means Happiness. What a perfect way to celebrate selfhood by inaugurating your vocabulary with it! I am very tempted to chart my own dictionary. Where or how do I or anyone else not in your shoes and pants, begin?
Aliza: I started with a note pad and wrote down thousands of words that first just came from my heart and mind. Then I picked up the dictionary once again in my life and read it word by word paying attention to words that called out to me either because they touched a chord, sparked my imagination…
Arundati: As Editor in chief of Writ Effect publishing house, what does your workload look like? Are there special writers or projects you are supporting that are of special interest to you right now?
Aliza: Not enough hours in the day! I am working on my new book which offers inspirational and encouraging words of support based on Biblical teachings. I am also working on a "words that shaped us" book which will include many of the words you were floored not to see in this book.
Arundati: What would you want your last words to be?
Aliza: A writer never wants to have a last word but rather hopes their words are meaningful and purposeful enough to live on.