Friday, January 30, 2015

7 Reasons Why I Read Haruki Murakami

For my birthday, my children bought me the book Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. This was exactly the present I wanted! I am a passionate Murakami fan and I was eager to read the new novel, which would afterwards find a place of honor on my bookshelf with all the other Murakami titles I own.

The new book, which sold a million copies in Japan in its first week after being released, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it added to my appreciation of Murakami's writing. The book is quite different from 1Q84, Murakami's strangely-titled previous novel, in that it is a more simplistic, more human story, and at 297 pages in hardcover, it is one-third 1Q84's opus length.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki tells the "story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss," and this is a loss that accompanies you from the book's initial pages all the way to its somewhat unremarkable, inconclusive ending. Described as "a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages", the experience of the book would be optimized with a backdrop score of Franz Liszt's three solo piano suites "Années de pèlerinage" (French for Years of Pilgrimage), music that is mentioned repeatedly in the narrative.

Read the rest of this story on The Huffington Post.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Make Your Writing Appetizing to Readers

There's nothing I like better than reading a suspense novel that you literally can't put down. The action is so intense that you are riveted to the pages, staying up late into the night in order to finish reading another chapter, or even the entire book. The plot grips you, despite being occasionally far-fetched and unbelievable. The characters, although shallow and one-dimensional, keep your attention as they combat seemingly insurmountable odds on their way to the story's thrilling conclusion.

The most enjoyable suspense novels, in my opinion, are those that take place in exotic locations. I am fascinated by stories set in Japan, or in Paris, or which use Caribbean islands as their setting, because by reading these books, I feel like I have traveled the world. The authors, if they do their job well, transport me to places I've never been. By reading their colorful descriptions, I stamp the passport of my imagination and expand my mind.

Read the rest of this article on Imaginary Friends.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bulgarian Rhapsody Recreates Lost World of Bulgarian Jewry

Unfortunately, you won't see the film Bulgarian Rhapsody vying for awards at the upcoming Oscars ceremony. The Bulgarian-Israeli co-production directed by Ivan Nichev was Bulgaria's contender in the Best Foreign Language Film category, but did not make the final cut of candidates. Yet, this World War II era melodramatic look at Bulgarian Jewry is definitely worth watching.

The year is 1943 and Bulgaria has sided with the Nazis. The Germans are pressing Bulgaria's rulers to deport the country's Jewish citizens to the camps in Poland. Against this backdrop, we meet Moni, a shy young Jewish boy living in Sofia. His best friend Giogio is much more worldly; he joins the country's youth guard while all the while trying to pick up girls.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comparisons of New York and Tel Aviv

The short stories in New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 by Shelly Oria, are unconventional in structure and in the relationships they portray.

1.


The first impression you get while reading this collection is that the format is different from what you're accustomed to seeing in fiction. Stories are fragmented into moments and episodes, marked in separation by numbers, calendar dates, or even by how many times the characters have kissed. Dialogue is included, but built into the paragraphs, without the familiar presence of quotation marks to guide you during the conversations. Yet, the pieces fit together into a cohesive whole, making the stories extremely readable despite their avant-garde construction.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dining with the Druze

Mutkal Halabi serenaded us with an oud as we ate a scrumptious oven-baked lamb dish made with almonds, walnuts, and rice. A side dish of hummus beans and potatoes complemented the main course. We were in Halabi's restaurant—the only diners in fact—and we were enjoying every minute of our culinary adventure in the Israeli Druze town of Daliat al-Carmel.

The meal had started with a spread of sour labane cheese, zaatar salad, homegrown olives from the year's "good crop", creamy tehina, hummus with pine nuts, stuffed vine leaves, and Druze pita, which is flatter and thinner than pita bread available elsewhere in the country. The name of Halabi's restaurant—Misadat HaKeves—was quite fitting; it translates as The Sheep Restaurant.

Read the rest of this article on The Huffington Post.

See also: Druze Villages on the Carmel.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Longing for a Home No Longer There

In the novel Ishmael's Oranges by Claire Hajaj, a mixed Palestinian-Jewish couple attempts to bridge the cultural and religious chasm between them.

At the beginning of 1948, over 50,000 residents called Jaffa their home. As the end of the British mandate neared, the Irgun paramilitary group launched an offensive on the town, starting with a three-day mortar bombardment. The vast majority of citizens fled, many of them escaping by sea.

Seven-year-old Salim al-Ishmaeli wants nothing more than to pick oranges in his family's orchard. But he is warned by a classmate that "The Jews are coming for you" and when the mortars fall, his family loses everything, including their orange house not far from the sea.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How Anticipation of Snow Shut Down Much of Israel

When a winter storm was detected approaching Israeli shores, bringing freezing Arctic temperatures, heavy levels of precipitation, and possibly snow as well, local officials didn't hesitate to announce their intentions to close down much of the country.

Schools would be closed for two days, authorities said. Tractors and shovels were positioned at major intersections, and the police stated that they would block the two highways leading from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as soon as the first snowflakes began falling from the sky. Hospitals went on alert, cultural events were canceled, and court sessions were postponed. The Israeli army sent armored personnel carriers to Jerusalem in anticipation of the coming storm.

Hearing the news, Israelis rushed to the nearest supermarket to stock up on basic supplies. Canned goods, dairy products, toiletries, and even bottles of mineral water were purchased as if a long siege was ahead.

Read the rest of this story on The Oslo Times.