The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
on the night of the first day i read the history of love water spilled onto its back cover. it was a brand new book, which i bought as my mind teetered between hesitation and aspiration, so i felt briefly disappointed but then realized that water spilling onto the back cover of the book was a good symbol for childbirth. water breaking induces labor, childbirth = beginning. and so, i began reading the history of love the same moment that the world birthed it surrounded by water.
i think, i have blogged about how much the book speaks to me in volumes after reading its excerpts / first passages in the new yorker. reminded of how much i liked the first lines in the book, “When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SHIT.” because the style of writing was unequivocal and scintillating. i also feel particular towards contemporary fiction because of its experimentalism presented as successive pages of singular paragraphs (the history of love), or inclusions of pictures overtly laid out like those in jonathan safran foer’s extremely loud and incredibly close.
the history of love is highly comparable to jonathan safran foer’s everything is illuminated. i like to think that it is not because nicole krauss is the wife of jonathan safran foer / his idea of beautiful, and rather because the books are classified under contemporary literature and so elements like blunt, casual style of writing etc. are necessary.
i like the chapter called my mother’s sadness. in here i was introduced to alma singer, the girl who was named after every girl in zvi litvinoff’s the history of love. i really like how nicole krauss used numerical enumeration to narrate the events / present the singers’ lives prior to the communication between alma and leo gursky’s son via letter writing. again, this was done to showcase clinical and straightforward writing, which i really enjoy, but then again it doesn’t mean that the scenes are devoid of feeling because frankly it is the other way around. i specifically like no. 18 aka MY MOTHER NEVER FELL OUT OF LOVE WITH MY FATHER:
She’s kept her love for him as alive as the summer they first met. In order to dot his, she’s turned her life away. Sometimes she subsists for days on water and air. Being the only known complex life-form to do this, she should have a species named after her. Once Uncle Julian told me how the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti said that sometimes just to paint a head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky. My mother did not choose a leaf or a head. She chose my father and to hold on to a certain feeling, she sacrificed the world.
There is a certain kind of sadness about Leo Gursky that makes me feel like I am this person in some way. I felt for him when it hit him how good it is to be alive only to find out later on that his only son, Isaac Moritz, had already died, felt for him when he pinned an index card saying, “My name is Leo Gursky I have no family Please call Pinelawn Cemetery I have a plot there in the Jewish park Thank you for your consideration” across his chest, and when he started dying on August 18, 1920 and even when he died alone because he was too embarrassed to phone anyone. I guess this is the kind of loneliness that would kill me many times and would still leave me alive and pining for death again and again, many times at nights, only to wake up the next day still breathing and unfortunate and still lonely. and so i think that leo gursky is the saddest fictional character i’ve ever met and the one character that i would like to hug tightly until his sadness ebbs away.
this, he said:
Now that mine is almost over, I can say that the thing that struck me most about life is the capacity for change. One day you’re a person and the next day they tell you you’re a dog. At first it’s hard to bear, but after a while you learn not to look at it as a loss. there;s even a moment when it becomes exhilarating to realize just how little needs to stay the same for you to continue the effort they call, of for the lack of a better word, being human.”
love this book so much
started reading: June 9, 2012
ended reading: June 12, 2012