The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon

by Philip Graham

(four of the dispatches concern Luso-Jewish topics: "365 Days of Pork Surprise" (the difficulty of finding real alheiras in Lisbon), "We Capture the Castle" (which includes a visit to Belmonte's synagogue and Jewish museum), "Salvage" (which includes a visit to the Jewish section of the Praia cemetery in Cape Verde, and a meeting with the newly-minted Israeli ambassador), and "Three Churches," which uncovers the anti-semitism behind a Santarém church's "miracle," describes the São Domingos massacre of New Christians, and praises 16th Century playwright Gil Vicente for his critique of the Inquisition.)

Part travelogue and part memoir, Philip Graham’s The Moon, Come to Earth brings us the news of Portugal past and present, touching on food and sports, religion and language, music and literature and art. Graham’s greatest strength is his ability to observe sharply and think clearly through the varied roles of public spectacle: the many ways in which the Portuguese tell stories of and to themselves through fireworks festivals and bullfights, medieval fairs and theater, magic shows and soccer matches and transformational public art. Given structure by his repeated return to the concept of saudade—‘a complicated feeling that combines sorrow, longing and regret, laced perhaps with a little mournful pleasure’—and given buoyancy by the ebullience of his voice, The Moon, Come to Earth shows Graham at the top of his game.

—Roy Kesey, author Nothing in the World and All Over