Monday, June 06, 2005

The History of Love

Currently reading: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
"The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller
"Bouclier Humain" by Hennebaut, Betaucourt, and Sellali
Next Up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber

*****************POSSIBLE SPOILERS - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*******************

I finished reading "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss a few days ago. Here's a synopsis:
"An unlikely and unforgettable hero, Leo Gursky is a survivor -- of war, of love, and of loneliness. A retired locksmith, Leo does his best to get by. He measures the passage of days by the nightly arrival of the delivery boy from the Chinese restaurant and has arranged a code with his upstairs neighbor: Three taps on the radiator means, "ARE YOU ALIVE?, two means YES, one NO." But it wasn't always so. Sixty years earlier, before he fled Poland for New York, Leo met a girl named Alma and fell in love. He wrote a book and named the character in it after his beloved. Years passed, lives changed, and unbeknownst to Leo, the book survived. And it provides Leo -- in the eighth decade of his life -- with a link to the son he's never known. How this long-lost book makes an extraordinary reappearance and connects the lives of disparate characters is only one of the small miracles The History of Love offers its readers." - from
My thought at the end of the book was - The ending brought the book up from good to very good. Still not great.
I wanted to love this book. I really did. I had loved the excerpt I'd read in the New Yorker, and I was expecting to love the whole thing. I particularly loved the characters she created: Leo Gursky - who was so vivid, and interesting, with such a distinct voice. Alma Singer - a fourteen year old girl in a novel I could actually relate to for once. Smart, but not annoyingly/precociously so. Body issues, but not to the point where she felt sorry for herself as a person. Bird - my only complaintis that I feel like he got short shrift. He's so interesting, I think he deserved a novel of his own. He was reduced to a plot device, and that really irritated me, because I liked him so much. To have his interest in his faith exist only to serve Alma's search was downright criminal.
(and why is his religious fervence treated like an illness instad of as something that can actually help him through his father's death? Just curious...)
What bothered me was that Krauss seemed to be trying too hard to be "experiemental." (whatever that means anymore...) What I loved about Man Walks Into a Room, her first novel, was its language and its directness. How it told a story. But for everything I enjoyed about this book, there were two that either annoyed me or confused me.
There are some beautiful poignant passages in this book - about lost/new love, about identity, about growing older...but then there's a page of charts for no real reason. Alma tells her story in list form. There are pages with only one or two sentences on them (some successful, some not). I dont' feel like any of these "tricks" suited the story she was trying to tell. It didn't feel like that's the way the story needed to be told - also, this didn't feel like Krauss' voice to me. It felt as if she were doing an impression...or at the very least, she was a ventriloquist speaking through a dummy. I missed her voice.
I wanted to hear Nicole Krauss speak...I ended up hearing who she thought we wanted to hear. It's not the same thing.


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