Review: The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories by Etgar Keret

A collection of Jewish, Israeli and magical realism short stories sounded just like my kind of thing. Etgar Keret’s The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories stings and thrills with fierce fables of modern life. And I had no idea going into this, but it turned out that I was already familiar with the author’s writing from school back when we’d read “Breaking the Pig.” So when I stumbled upon said short story in here, I was beyond joyful to have everything come back.

The author, without a doubt, knows his stuff. Brief, intense, painfully funny, and shockingly honest, Keret’s stories are snapshots that illuminate with intelligence and wit the hidden truths of life. From having a shitty angel friend (“That’s when he finally understood that of all the things the angel had told him, nothing was true. That he wasn’t even an angel, just a liar with wings.”) to joining the circus to Holocaust Memorial Day to someone’s struggle with their compulsive good-heartedness, these swift tales captivated me and reminded me of everything I know and everything I still don’t.

With all that I loved, however, I still think I made a mistake deciding to read the English translation of this collection because it kind of made the writing lose a bit of its magic. From what I recall of reading Keret in school, his humor is better conveyed in the original language. And I just kept thinking throughout that I should’ve read this in Hebrew.

But on a more positive note, I cherished it immensely when strong emotions where evoked out of me while reading. I laughed, raged, rolled my eyes and connected with so many stories and little moments within them.
Moments such as capturing the love we feel for home-cooked meals:

“There’s something nice about home cooking. I mean, it’s hard to explain, but there’s something special about it, a feeling. As if your stomach can figure out that it’s food you didn’t have to pay for, that someone actually made it out of love. ”

To feeling that palpable rage against Nazi German bastards, especially on Holocaust Memorial Day:

“Then an old skinny man got on the stage and told us what bastards and murderers the Nazis were and how he took revenge on them, and even strangled a soldier with his own hands until he died. Jerby, who was sitting next to me, said the old man was lying; the way he looks, there’s no way he can make any soldier bite the dust. But I looked the old man in the eye and believed him. He had so much anger in his eyes, that all the violent rage of iron-pumping hoods I’ve seen seemed like small change in comparison.”

“Finally, when he finished telling us what he had done during the Holocaust, the old man said that what we had just heard was relevant not only to the past but also for what goes on now, because the Germans still exist and still have a state. He said he was never going to forgive them, and that he hoped we, too, would never ever go visit their country. Because when he went with his parents to Germany fifty years ago everything looked nice, but it ended in hell. People have short memories, he said, especially when bad things are concerned. People tend to forget, he said, but you won’t forget. Every time you see a German, you’ll remember what I told you. Every time you see German products, be it television (since most televisions here are made by German manufacturers) or anything else, you’ll always remember that underneath the elegant wrapping are hidden parts and tubes made of bones and skin and flesh of dead Jews.”

And then wrapping the collection up with a good ol’ case of tragicomedy when a man is fed up of being compared his whole life to another “Just like me, only a tiny bit better”:

“We’re about to land, sir. I insist you return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt, like . . .” True, she went on to say “like all the other passengers,” but what I saw in her eyes was Katzenstein. I pushed down on the lever and forced the door open with my shoulder. I was perfectly calm as I was sucked out, leaving all hell behind me.
Suicide is still considered a dreadful sin in the Afterlife. I begged them to try and understand, but they wouldn’t listen. As they were dragging me to Hell, there was Katzenstein. Him and the other passengers, waving at me through the window of the tour bus that was taking them to Heaven. The plane had crashed as it hit the ground, about fifteen minutes after I’d bailed out. A rare malfunction. One in a million. If only I’d stuck it out in my seat another few seconds, like all the other passengers. Like Katzenstein.”


All in all: These stories were real and vulgar and undeniably sincere. I can’t wait to read more of Keret’s writing in the near future.

3.5/5 stars

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Review: Lullabies by Lang Leav

“There is a certain quality to words that—when strung in a certain way—has an almost hypnotic effect.”

Lullabies was my second poetry read by Lang Leav, and save for a handful of excerpts, I was a bit let down. From what I recall of  The Universe of Us, it was an enchanting collection with a number of gems thrown in for good measure.

But the poems in this one, especially the few that tried to come of as witty or rhythmic, were puzzling and perplexing and just why…. Leav tries to tackle down poems “of hope and ecstasy, of tenderness and betrayal,” but in the end I was just left with little to no emotions. However, I did love the splendid illustrations featured in here:

And so instead of focusing on those aforementioned nonsensical pieces, I decided to share those rare quotes and poems that captured my heart for a hot minute:

Patience

“Patience and Love agreed to meet at a set time and place; beneath the twenty-third tree in the olive orchard. Patience arrived promptly and waited. She checked her watch every so often but still, there was no sign of Love.

Was it the twenty-third tree or the fifty-sixth? She wondered and decided to check, just in case. As she made her way over to the fifty-sixth tree, Love arrived at twenty-three, where Patience was noticeably absent.

Love waited and waited before deciding he must have the wrong tree and perhaps it was another where they were supposed to meet.

Meanwhile, Patience had arrived at the fifty-sixth tree, where Love was still nowhere to be seen.

Both begin to drift aimlessly around the olive orchard, almost meeting but never do.

Finally, Patience, who was feeling lost and resigned, found herself beneath the same tree where she began. She stood there for barely a minute when there was a tap on her shoulder.

It was Love.

…………………………….

“Where are you?” She asked. “I have been searching all my life.”
“Stop looking for me,” Love replied, “and I will find you.”

Little tales like the above ones are my Achilles’ heel.

And/Or

“I wanted everything because I didn’t want anything enough.”

Message in a Bottle

“We can’t see ourselves the way others see us.”

This piece me think a lot on whether that’s a good or bad thing. I’m still contemplating.

That Night

“It was one of those nights that you are not altogether sure really did happen. There are no photographs, no receipts, no scrawled journal entries.”

Three Questions

“What was it like to love him? asked Gratitude.
It was like being exhumed, I answered. And brought to life in a flash of brilliance.

What was it like to be loved in return? asked Joy.
It was like being seen after a perpetual darkness, I replied. To be heard after a lifetime of silence.

What was it like to lose him? asked Sorrow.
There was a long pause before I responded:

It was like hearing every good-bye ever said to me—said all at once.”

Poker Face

“There was a time I would tell you,
of all that ached inside;
the things I held so sacred,
to all the world I’d hide.
 
But they became your weapons,
and slowly I have learnt,
the less that is said, the better—
the lesser I’ll be hurt.
 
Of all you’ve used against me,
the worst has been my words.
 
There are things I’ll never tell you,
and it is sad to think it so;
the more you come to know me—
the less of me you’ll know.”

This haunting poem remains my favorite one. It was worth going through all of it, just to find this one shining gem.

Remembering You

“The day you left, I went through all my old journals, frantically looking for the first mention of you. Searching for any details I can no longer recall—any morsel of information that may have been lost to my subconscious. The memory of you is fading, a little at a time, and I can feel myself forgetting. I don’t want to forget.”

A Ghost

“Strange how it mattered so much,
when now it matters
so little.”


Overall, since my expectations were lower than low, Lullabies was a lot better than I was anticipating. It managed to hit my heart in a couple of places, so I’m glad I gave it my best shot.

3/5 stars

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Review: Moonlight (Screenplay) by Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney

This review contains *spoilers*.

I recently watched the masterpiece that is Moonlight and to say that I was utterly blown away would not be at all an exaggeration. It’s the kind of movie that sticks with you. Covering issues of race, discrimination, sexuality, m/m love, coming of age, and so much more. I can’t get over how wide-spanning and game-changing this film is. To quote this articleMoonlight also became the first film with an all black cast, the first LGBT film and the second lowest-grossing film domestically (behind The Hurt Locker) to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Also, THAT ENDING!!!. Dev Patel and Andrew Garfield said it best when:

I vividly remember thinking during one particular scene in the film, I wonder how this was written down in the script… So I was beyond ecstatic to get to read the screenplay so soon after seeing the film.  And as you might’ve guessed, Moonlight was just as spectacular on page as it was on the big screen. (Plus, we get extra scenes that didn’t make it into the final cute.) (AND A DIFFERENT – BUT STILL SIMILAR – ENDING!!)

I had so many favorite scenes in Moonlight – and since the film is divided into three parts, it’s quite a number – so I’ll just start sharing:

warning: I get overly excited.

“JUAN
You don’t talk much but you damn 
sure can eat.

Teresa smiling. 


TERESA
That’s alright, baby. You talk when 
you ready.

Little looking up from his plate at that, something about Teresa’s voice, her presence, clicking with him. 


LITTLE
My name Chiron.
(and)
But people call me Little.

TERESA
I’m gon’ call you by your name.”

This was my favorite introduction scene. Made me grow appreciative of Teresa and Juan that more.  And like the brilliant Mahershala Ali, who plays Juan in the film, said best about his character:

“JUAN
So how you like swimmin’?

Nothing from Little. Heard him but the words too heavy to present themselves.

JUAN
That good, huh?”

I cherished the above scene even more when we had it come back between Little and Kevin in a later part:

“KEVIN
…this dude reminded me of you.

Beat.

BLACK
What’d he play?

A long pause from Kevin, the song wedging itself in his thoughts right now, pushing everything aside.

BLACK
That good, huh?”

Made a megawatt smile appear on my face.

“TERESA
(playful)
Think you slick, huh? Do it wrong so Teresa show up and do it right,
huh?
(laughs)

TERESA (CONT’D)
You and Juan, thick as thieves,
lemme tell you.

Teresa looking to Chiron for that last part, what begins as a smile slowly fading, shifting to something more reflective, heavy.

TERESA
You miss him?

Chiron holding her gaze, his silence answer enough.

TERESA
Yeah.
Me too.

Beat.

TERESA
Me too.”

I was devastated when I found out about Juan.

“KEVIN
Hell, shit make you wanna cry, feel
so good.


Chiron looking to Kevin now:

CHIRON
You cry?

KEVIN
Nah. But it make me want to.

Kevin flashing that big, cool ass smile.

KEVIN
What you cry about? You cry, Chiron?

Beat.

CHIRON
I cry so much sometimes I think one
day I’m gone just turn into drops.”

That last line impacted me so much that I wrote it down the minute I heard it in the film.

Last but not least, I’m sharing one of the most iconic exchange between two romantically involved characters:

“BLACK
You’re the only man who’s ever
touched me.

The air going out of Kevin’s chest, his gaze fixated on Black’s lips, anticipating the words falling from there:

BLACK
The only one.

Black’s hand is flat atop the table between them. His eyes lower to it:

BLACK
I haven’t really touched anyone,
since.”

THIS REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST LIVELY LINES EVER!!!

Reading the screenplay set me up in this continues loop of reading and then rewatching and then rereading and watching again. HELP.

And since there are so many more scenes I want to share, I was thankful to find this post that sums them up pretty greatly:

Real talk, Moonlight has my whole heart in the palm of its fictional hands. This film deserves every award and recognition it’ll receive in the near future. And I hope it collects a whole lot.

P.S. I love this screenplay even more for opening up my world to the fact that I can read the screenplays of my favorite films.

5/5 stars

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