Thursday, June 28, 2007

these are the very words she uses to describe her life

on saturday I read The History of Love by nicole krauss. she is married to jonathan safran foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated. this is too bad. for me, I mean. however, this does not discredit any of their works. if anything, they will now be read for pure literary merit. which they should be. all being very good books. one might even call them excellent.* nicole dedicates the book to her grandparents (who taught her "the opposite of disappearing") and "for jonathan, my life". pretty sweet. I suppose they get along well. for a dedication like that, they must. unless she is hiding something. but that is doubtful. I imagine them sitting in their new york apartment, a view overlooking central park or a river of some natural landscape, surrounded by books and bookshelves and a modern painting or two and low-lying (?) furniture. they cook for each other (after all, they are married.) and read their books to each other and comment and cross out but avoid the use of red pens because they are too harsh. but that's just me.

their writing styles are very similar. maybe it is those late night editing sessions or being surrounded by someone so much you start to think their thoughts or even their attraction for each other and their similarities that lead^ to love. their writing is refreshing. a new fiction. as claire messud of LA Weekly posits, "alternately delightful and hilarious and deeply affecting." elizabeth berg, author The Year of Pleasures, calls it "a work that captivates, challenges, and consoles, all at once." these and other verbose and adjective-heavy reviews can be found on the first six pages of nicole's book. but what nicole herself writes is better than even what the Cleveland Plain Dealer has to say on it. it's uplifting. a good story.

here is an excerpt, from page 72 , "the age of silence":

The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people's hands, nothing we say not that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.

During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious...
the day before I read The History of Love I read New Face in the Mirror by yael dayan, daughter of moshe dayan. it was waiting on my dresser when I came home. from my father, who goes to goodwills and looks in the books for things that he might be able to sell on ebay. I didn't like yael's book very much. it scared me and I did not know how to react or what to think. yesterday I read The Last American Man by elizabeth gilbert. she is a brilliant writer. she just wrote Eat, Pray, Love; though the book is very popular and loved and universally admired and therefore there were no copies on the library's shelves. so I got her older one instead. it is a book about america and dreams and values and tradition and how we live. elizabeth describes the life of eustace conway, a man who lives in a "traditional" manner on his 1,000 acre plot in the woods of north carolina. he promotes life like this, living in a traditional manner, making buildings from the woods around him, eating the animals he kills, thanking the animals for giving their lives to sustain his, and so on. it's interesting. eustace works to spread this message, to become a Man of Destiny, to tell americans that they need to give up their materialistic lives and return to the woods. but, I wonder, wouldn't this destroy the woods if everyone returned? population problems? eustace is extremely impressive for doing and carrying out to such an extent what he so believes in. I could not do it. live in the woods, working all day, as he does. I do not think so.

right now I am reading American Gods by neil gaiman. I do not know what to think so far. it is like a scary movie you have just started to watch but cannot stop because you need to know what happens.

please, dear readers, recommend me some books to read. I am home for a month with naught to do.

harold and maude is on. must go. happy independence, my dear america.

* there is a wicked storm out. sheets of rain. pounding pavement. streaks of lightening. thunder that shakes the window frames. the works. it's pretty frightening, actually. i wonder how my dad will make it home from work.**
** as anyone who's read the pennsylvania learner's permit handbook knows, one musn't drive in thundering downpours such as this, and certainly not in the first 10 minutes of one when the roads are slickest. one should pull over, preferably into a parking lot, turn on flashers, and wait it out.***
*** I just read the book. that's how I know. not that I memorize seemingly random yet important facts such as these and recite them ad hoc. I passed the exam. thanks for your support.****
**** ok, the thunder is getting very loud and close and long now. I blame it on the river. the river (the one washington crossed) is down the street. I suppose I should turn off the computer and light some candles and read. just in case. of a power outage, that is. not of a reader's knowledge championship.*****
***** five stars seems a bit excessive. too bad blogger doesn't have superscript. the storm ended. i mean, it's a week later, baruch hashem it ended. we lost power for a few hours. there was no flooding. now it is july 4. but blogger puts the date as to when the post was started, not posted. haval.
^ I'm not sure if this is the proper spelling of this word. this word (and others, like lie/lay, choose) confuse me tremendously. I'll leave it like this, without checking it, so you will see I have some imperfections and believe in my humanity.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

on returning home.

there is a blue ceramic vase on top of the smaller bookcase in my room. i made it during freshman orientation, at the free arts classes offered at the carnegie. it has traveled with me from school to home and back again, but has rarely been used for flowers. never at home, where there are other vases that are easier to wash. and school in pittsburgh was eons ago. there are no places to buy flowers in oakland.

in french hill, in the concrete plaza between the mister zol's food store and the bank, stand a few benches and a planted tree. on fridays they are joined by a french man in his 60s, wearing a wool golfing cap, a collared shirt and bow tie or vest, and jacket. he is surrounded by buckets of flowers. there are cheap carnations and roses (sure to lose petals that afternoon) for ten shekels. more colorful overflowing bouquets are marked at 25 or thirty shekels. the french man sells to everyone who walks by, overloaded with shabbat groceries or picking up challot from the neeman bakery. he tries speaking to me in french, then hebrew, then english. he waits while i fumble for a response in hebrew (refusing to speak in english and not knowing a word of french). he asks me about the week. seeing me hug and kiss a friend, he asks why i do not do the same for him. he tells me that my mother must have beautiful eyes, looking at mine. when i am away for a few shabbatot he asks me where i have been.

i buy my flowers, sometimes a bouquet or sometimes two different solids, pick up the weekend edition of the newspaper (both haaretz and the jerusalem post- heaven forbid i should miss an interesting story in one by only buying the other), and stumble back to the apartment before my arms become dislocated by the weight of the groceries. i trim the stems, de-leaf, and arrange in the kankan/vase i got from a small stand on a side street of the shuk, with the flower overflow delegated to a series of empty wine bottles.

my mother has a garden. she spends hours every weekend kneeling on her green garden pad, weeding and transferring and trimming. when she is done she calls me out to look at her work. in elementary school i used to bring my teachers flowers from my mother's garden, wrapping the stems in a wet paper towel and putting aluminum foil around that to keep the water in, before running off for the bus.

i do not know what i mean to say by all this. i made a vase once. it sits on a bookshelf, shrouded in the dust of disuse. there is a kind old french man who sold me flowers for shabbat. my mother has a garden, which we walk around to look at but do not often pick from.

i can write it all out. i can tell stories. i could probably make a picture book, but i am unable to write, to express, what is deepest felt.

my return has been easy. my parents take care of me, feed me, and give me yard work to do. everyone speaks english. the sign in the newark airport reads: "customer service is our top priority." people ask questions, commiserate, and talk about the sopranos. bathrooms have only one flush. white clouds dot the blue sky. the grass is shockingly green and requires a weekly mowing.

it has been too easy. it does not hurt enough. where are my tears, my disgust, my anguish, my yearning? it is as if life in america is too easy. too perfect? no, this is not it, nothing is perfect. i watched the news last night: america is not perfect. it is as if it is too simple to exist here.*

in israel things matter. really matter. the price of vegetables, the latest political move, the weather! every cloud, every clear blue day in israel is a miracle to be celebrated. the land. every inch of dirt (speck of dirt?) is treasured. shabbat. it all means more.

life means more.
and this is what i miss.

*for me, i mean. i do not generalize. i live in x, z has been my life, and y is how i feel.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

jerusalem (rav kook)

יש אבנים ויש אבנים
יש לבבות ויש לבבות
יש לבבות שהן אבנים
ויש אבנים שהן לבבות

there are stones and there are stones.
there are hearts and there are hearts.
there are hearts that are stones.
and there are stones that are hearts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My mind's distracted and diffused/My thoughts are many miles away

in america. real life too, not just the movie. computer and i have not yet updated our clocks to reflect this. it is nearing 5am. strange to be here. not strange enough. more when the rain stops.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

carpeted floors and chirping birds

well, folks. one week left in this holy land.

two+ suggestions from each of you on things i should do before i leave, please.