Review: Between Friends by Amos Oz

I watched Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness last year, which is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Israeli author Amos Oz. But this collection of eight short stories was my first read by the author and now I’m intrigued to find more of his works.

Amos Oz’s compelling new fiction offers revelatory glimpses into the secrets and frustrations of the human heart, played out by a community of misfits united by political disagreement, intense dissatisfaction and lifetimes of words left unspoken.

Ariella, unhappy in love, confides in the woman whose husband she stole; Nahum, a devoted father, can’t find the words to challenge his daughter’s promiscuous lover; the old idealists deplore the apathy of the young, while the young are so used to kibbutz life that they can’t work out if they’re impassioned or indifferent. Arguments about war, government, travel and children are feverishly taken up and quickly abandoned – and amid this group of people unwilling and unable to say what they mean, Martin attempts to teach Esperanto.

While Between Friends was certainly a quick read, only two tales out of the eight stood out in my eyes. The first one being the introducing story, “The King of Norway,” which chronicles the life of Zvi Provizor, a middle-age bachelor who likes to carry the sorrows of the world on his shoulders. (“Closing your eyes to the cruelty of life is, in my opinion, both stupid and sinful. There’s very little we can do about it. So we have to at least acknowledge it.”)

This story resonated deeply with its discussions of Provizor’s emotional issues, in particular the fact that he doesn’t like being touched.

“Never in his adult life had he touched another person intentionally, and he went rigid whenever he was touched. He loved the feel of loose earth and the softness of young stems, but the touch of others, men or women, caused his entire body to stiffen and contract as if he’d been burned. He always tried to avoid handshakes, pats on the back, or the accidental rubbing of elbows at the table in the dining hall.”

And the following tale I liked was titled “Father,” which follows sixteen-year-old Moshe Yashar with his quiet and gentle manner. It delivered everything I didn’t know I wanted from this collection. And the one thing that stood out the most was this next paragraph on animal cruelty and veganism.

“Someday, Moshe thought, a future generation will call us murderers, unable to comprehend how we could eat the flesh of creatures like ourselves, rob them of the feel of the earth and the smell of the grass, hatch them in automatic incubators, raise them in crowded cages, force-feed them, steal all their eggs before they hatch, and finally, slit their throats, pluck their feathers, tear them limb from limb, gorge ourselves on them and drool and lick the fat from our lips.”

Such a powerful passage to secure my ongoing interest. To paraphrase Moshe, I kept finding myself deeply touched by the enigmas contained in these pages. Discussing “big, simple truths: loneliness and longing, desire and death.”

However, one subtle thing I noticed the more I read on was how similarly the inner qualities of the narrators were described. The word ‘quiet’ was used an absurd amount of times to describe every single one of them. We had quietly persistent,” quiet” and composed,” quiet persistence,” etc. So either the translator or the author went a little overboard… And this then lead to each short story blending into the next one, until it became difficult to distinguish the voices.

On a brighter note, I did enjoy the fact that all the tales were connected in one way or another, so that we got closure on certain storylines that weren’t quite finished before. Also, I cherished the fact that these quietly moving stories were set on around the kibbutz movement.

All in all: This was a great introduction to Amos Oz’s writing style and I’m eager to continue on.

3/5 stars

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

Review: Misfit City #2 by Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith, Kurt Lustgarten

This second issue of Misfit City continues on from where we last left off. After examining the treasure map, the girls break into the Captain’s house, unaware that they’re being followed!

Going into this I definitely had to refresh my memory by rereading my review for the first issue. It’s been over a month since I last visited this group, so it was quite difficult to keep up with the plot and characters at first. And since #2 focused a lot more on the storyline, I wasn’t as invested as with the first issue. I mean I’m here mostly for this brilliant group of girlfriends:Misfit City #2 5-- bookspoilsThat like to tease one other:Misfit City #2 2-- bookspoilsBut will ultimately always have each other’s back.

Misfit City #2 6-- bookspoilsOn a brighter note, the color palette is still on point. And I loved how each page felt like its own theme. Misfit City #2 3-- bookspoilsAll in all: I’m still invested as hell to keep up with the girls and their future shenanigans.

3/5 stars 

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Misfit City #2, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Earth Hates Me by Ruby Karp

“Good luck. I hope you don’t cringe too much.”

I started this ARC on a complete whim while in dire need for a quick and fun read to take my mind of things. I was then pleasantly surprised to open the first page to discover an interview between Ruby Karp and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer. Given my hesitations, this was the perfect hook for me to read on. In particular, since the author’s writing voice sounded similar to that of Rookie’s editor-in-chief (and recent podcast host), Tavi Gevinson. They’re both Jewish white girls, well-known for writing articles online since the age of ten and above.

But focusing on Earth Hates Me, I appreciated how Ruby Karp acknowledged her privilege from the start of this novel. She didn’t sugarcoat things and brought her honest self to these pages, filled with essays and articles to keep your head busy and thinking for days.

It also made me realize a lot of new things about myself that I couldn’t necessarily put into words at first. I went into this book thinking it would come off as another cheesy read, but that’s far from it actually. I found myself and so much more in the pages of Earth Hates Me. Funnily enough, it felt a lot like watching an episode from Skam, my favorite Norwegian tv series also directed towards 16-year-olds. Similar to the latter, we have discussions of:

  • Young love and heartbreak.

“Being in fifth grade (and hyperemotional, because being ten is a lot to deal with) and getting my heart broken? It’s almost as devastating as the ups and downs of Nash Grier’s career.”

P.S. The shade thrown in here at the most deserving of people was extremely satisfying to experience.

  • Making the crucial point that sex-ed classes need to discuss both the importance of consent while simultaneously teaching not to rape.

“We need to stop teaching people only how to say no. We need to stop allowing boys to use force upon girls and vice versa. We need boys to understand that using sexual force is unacceptable, always. We need to teach people how not to rape.”

  • The negativity behind slut shaming, the importance of practicing safe sex, girl power, and feminism turned into my favorite chapter. Karp brought up so many noteworthy notions similar to the above quote.
  • The matter of not feeling good enough in your own skin (“I looked for validation in other people because I couldn’t find it in myself.”) while also discussing beauty and self-worth and how it feels different for each individual, as it should.
  • Experiencing unrequited love, also known as “the heartbreak of heartbreaks.”

“When Angela Chase said that obsessions aren’t real, she meant it. Ninety-five percent of the time, what you want is just a fantasy. Your fantasies will never live up to your realities—that’s just fact. I couldn’t get over my idea of what Greg and I could have been. I couldn’t get over my idea of who he was and what I could have meant to him. The real Greg—the one who didn’t like me back—he wasn’t the Greg I wanted.”

This was something I was particularly glad to have read today.

  • She talks about mending your shattered heart, including a healthy dose of her own experiences with failed relationships “(real or mostly fantasy).”
  • Friend breakups and how they can hurt just as much as romantic ones.

“Some friends are exactly what you need them to be in the moment, but not forever.”

  • The suffocating stress of her performing arts high school. (“We’re like Victorious except without the puppet component.”) Plus, the pressure to do well in school while also addressing the mess that is the education system and standardized tests.

“Your grades are not a reflection of who you are.”

  • And a welcome addition of pop culture references thrown in, from social media to Hannah Montana, Mean Girls, Sex and the City, and Hamilton the musical.
  • Being raised by a single mother and their close relationship nowadays. Showing healthy mother/daughter relationships is the key to my heart.

“If you’re like me and your mom is always the though guy for you, you never really need to be the strong one. Because of this, my childhood consisted of tears the second anyone wasn’t nice to me.”

So as you can see by the above list, for the first half I was in a state of pure bliss while reading. The arguments brought up by the author were ones I wholeheartedly agreed with. Karp was either saying something I hadn’t been able to put into words before or the complete opposite, where it was just a comfort to have someone write down a similar opinion I held. Like her point about parents being humans too is one I’ve made before, so it was exciting to see her agree.

“We forget that our parents were once young and had lives where they also felt out of place at a party they didn’t know enough people at. Our parents aren’t minions from another planet, and as hard as it is to remember that, it’s important we try to, so we don’t spend every moment hating them.”

Ruby captured so many quiet and loud moments we’ve all experienced that “couldn’t have been more uncomfortable, more real, more dramatic, and more heartfelt…” Reading this felt like a much-needed change in scenery, a breath of fresh air. While I struggle with getting invested in fictional young adult books, I’ve noticed that the ones set in the nonfiction genre I manage to devour in a heartbeat. Plus, the addition of having so many laugh-out-loud moments weighed in as well.

I also began observing how each essay started out quite strong, especially ones with personal anecdotes included in the mix. But without fail, I knew the end of a chapter was coming when the advice started getting vague. Like: “Live your life the way you want to be living it.” Or “Go out into the world and be the change you want to see.” These are all valid points, just that a lot of influential people have said it before her and will continue to say it after…

But setting that little note aside, my day passed by in a happy blur thanks to being too invested in this book to look at the clock. So I’m definitely curious to see what’s next in store for Ruby Karp.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: October 3rd, 2017

3.5/5 stars

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