Review: Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter

“Dancers are storytellers.” 

In one thrilling photograph after another, Dancers Among Us presents professional dancers from across the country–leaping, spinning, lifting, kicking, while in the midst of daily living.

There’s no photo manipulation here, no trampolines, no gimmicks, no tricks. Just a photographer, his vision, and the serendipity of what happens when the shutter clicks.

I went into this not knowing what to expect, but was ultimately blown away by the sheer joy and awe I felt just flipping from page to page in this book. The seemingly effortless and effervescent way the dancers were captured by Jordan Matter made my head spin.

Divided into seven parts with short essays by the author accompanying each one, I was quickly swept up inside this world where everything seemed to be vibrant, sparkling and moving. There’s also a lovely dose of quotes from well-known individuals sprinkled throughout Dancers Among Us.

But for now I’d like to focus on those bits and pieces that most pierced my heart:

#1: Rise Above It All
Michelle Fleet
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 1-- bookspoils
#2: Opening Night
Parisa Khobdeh
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 2-- bookspoils

#3: Big Day
Kristin DeCesare, Jessica Press
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 3-- bookspoils

#4: Mama’s Boy
Sun Chong, with his mother
Washington, DCDancers Among Us 4-- bookspoils

#5: Vista
Evgeniya Chernukhina
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 5-- bookspoils

#6: Save the Day
Ricardo Rhodes
Sarasota, Florida
Dancers Among Us 6-- bookspoils

#7: Saving Lives
Duncan Lyle
Boston, MassachusettsDancers Among Us 7-- bookspoilsI stared at the above picture for an hour trying to figure out how it looks so damn effortless.

#8: Transfer
Jeffrey Smith
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 8-- bookspoils

#9: Park It
B-boy Gentl Minsung Kim
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 9-- bookspoils

#10: Close Shave
Alyssa Desamais
Montreal, Canada
Dancers Among Us 10-- bookspoils

#11: Book Worm
Casia Vengoechea
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 11-- bookspoils

#12: Cram Session
Michelle Fleet
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 12-- bookspoils


However, the one thing I kept wondering throughout was what happened the second after the shutter clicked… Like, how did the dancers get out of their position safely?
But thankfully the author included a section at the end titled “about the photographs.” So if you’re interested in knowing more context about the inspirations or ideas behind any particular photo, you can just check out said section at the end of the book. It’s utterly brilliant and adds immense depth to each picture.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Dancers Among Us, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Lullabies, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!