Monday, September 28, 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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Following the Footsteps of Orpheus



A sign declaring the birthplace of Orpheus greets visitors to the village of Gela, high in Bulgaria's southern Rhodopes Mountains. According to legend, Orpheus - the mythical Greek musician, poet, and prophet - descended into the underworld in an attempt to save his wife, Eurydice, from the Greek god, Hades. More on that in a minute.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Seven good years of Keret



I have a confession to make. I am a regular reviewer of modern Israeli literature with a specialization in reading recently translated Hebrew books. Yet, my reviews have failed to cover the writing of one of the genre’s leading voices. Luckily, I had an opportunity to receive a copy of The Seven Good Years (Granta Books, July 2015) and get a proper introduction to Etgar Keret.

I recently read Tel Aviv Noir, a short story tour of the seedier neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. That collection was co-edited by Keret and novelist Assaf Gavron. One of my favorite stories was Keret’s contribution, “Allergies”, which told of a couple who adopt a dog and end up doing increasingly strange things to take care of the pet.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Would You Jump Off This Bridge If Someone Paid You?




As we crossed the picturesque bridge in Mostar, a young man in a bathing suit was resting on the rails. He waited patiently, as if he had all the time in the world. All that it would take to get him to dive into the waters of the Neretva River 24 meters below was 25 euros, but the tourists walking across the bridge didn't want to donate money to see his feat.

The bridge in Mostar, one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and this despite the fact that it's actually a reconstruction of a 16th century Ottoman bridge. The original Stari Most, as it is called, was destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnian War.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

You Can't Write a Novel While Driving, but...



Of course you can't write a novel while driving a car! You will get into an accident, endanger the lives of your passengers and the other drivers. But, you can write a novel while taking a walk. And I just proved this is possible.

Yesterday afternoon I went out on my regular exercise walk, which is anything but regular these days due to a severe lack of time. In one pocket I had an old MP4 listening device dating back many years. I was eager to listen to my collection of America, Paul Simon, and Elton John. Perfect music to accompany my walking and a clear sign that I am not as young as I pretend to be.

In my other pocket was my smartphone, a phone I would only use in case of an emergency. But I was confident that I could handle the walk. Come on, guys. I do this exercise walk quite a bit and it would be better defined as a power walk. I walk quickly.