Saturday, November 25, 2006

Trading Whores for Sorrow

I had a lovely experience over the Thanksgiving holiday: starting and finishing a book that has nothing to do with my dissertation. After reading my friend Casey's review of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of My Melancholy Whores a few months ago, I decided to read it myself. It was strange, and strangely inviting -- often dark, but always in the context of lush, descriptive language. The story of a ninety-year-old man who desires an evening with a young virgin, the novella is very much about the fear of aging and of being old, and the things we consider doing in order to entertain the possibility (or the illusion) of youth even for a moment. But it's also about torment, I think, and about the tendency of some people to entertain, even feed, their own personal torments, their own well-cultivated sorrows. At one point, the old man realizes that he is dying of love for the young virgin, but he also realizes that the contrary is true: that he "would not have traded the delights of my suffering for anything in the world" (84). I think I know people like this -- people who relish and prolong their sorrows more than their joys; perhaps I have caught even myself doing such a thing. But what is rare is to hear someone say, "This, this sorrow, is what I desire, is what keeps me alive, is what becomes my joy."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Holiday Reading

I have an excel spreadsheet with over a hundred books that I hope to read in the near future. The problem is that I haven't read one book on my list in over six months. Not that I'm not reading -- I'm just not reading the books I most look forward to reading. So, lately, in order to entice myself to start hacking away at my long list, I have been buying these books and piling them up on my desk. I have decided that my "holiday" reading list is as follows:

1. Her Body Knows by David Grossman
2. Mr. Mani by A. B. Yehoshua
3. Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
4. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
5. Natasha by David Bezmozgis
6. There Are Jews In My House by Laura Vapnar

Of course it's unlikely that I will get through more than two of these, in between MLA and AJS conferences, but one can dream . . .

So, what is everyone else planning to read over the holidays?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tefillin Barbie

For those of you who are wondering, no I do not have Tefillin Barbie. But this is one of the strangest things I've ever seen.