June 2018: Wrap Up

Hey June, thanks for a month full of exciting reads and rereads. Featuring: unexpected rereads, a new gem of a TV show, and exciting seven books:

ON THE SPECTRUM:

This new Israeli contemporary show follows three young people on the autism spectrum who share a flat together. And watching it felt like discovering a true gem.

I consider On the Spectrum to be a true surprise, considering how its slow start made me, foolishly, put it aside for a hot minute, but upon noticing my mind circling back to it, I, thankfully, went back to complete the remainder with stars in my eyes.OTS-- bookspoils 2OTS-- bookspoils 1(That Husky in the left corner, though!!)

I know a show is good when, upon completing it, I make my mom look into the first episode so that I can vent all about it. I practically talked her ear off on the first episode alone… On the Spectrum is the kind of show I crave to devour all at once, so having to wait for new episodes to release every week is excruciating, so much so that I’m low-key piqued whenever an episode comes to an end; it always arrives all-too-soon.

The slow revealing nature of the show, with keeping the cards off the table to keep us engaged, was delicious. The creators trust us enough to slowly piece together the bigger picture through tiny revelations on our own. Plus, major props to the writers for not dropping plot lines the following episode. Something that occurred in previous episodes will probably receive closure within the next one. Like, the dog from the street. (Won’t go into details, though, because this show deserves to be watched and discovered through fresh eyes.)

Ben Yosipovich, The actor that plays Amit’s character, says it best when, to paraphrase, he talks about how the show succeeds in showing big emotional moments not because they’re these Big Emotional Moments, but because they’re these subtly embodied gestures, just like in real life.

The trailer with English subtitles:

The tree mains are:

  • Zohar who has her overprotective brother, Asher, with a heart of gold, taking care of her.23I can clearly hear Zohar’s voice reverberating through this powerful scene. I get chills on her aching “But I want to be touched already!”
  • Ron who lives in his routine bubble of avoiding life so he doesn’t feel fear, which is why he likes it and is hesitant to change course.

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  • Amit, who’s the hardest to pin down in writing, but the most intriguing to follow on his outings. Like, his bird watching in the second episode:

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That was my June wrap-up, thank you for reading!

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Review: The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret

I’ve truly missed the experience that an engaging Nonfiction book evokes, so The Seven Good Years arrived in my hands at the right time. This wise, witty memoir—Etgar’s first non-fiction book, and told in his inimitable style—is full of wonder and life and love, poignant insights, and irrepressible humor.

I’ve read Keret’s short story collections (Suddenly, a Knock on the Door & The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories) in the past and enjoyed the experience immensely. With the news of a brand new collection dropping in Hebrew and eager to get my hands on it, I decided to check this slim book out in the meantime.

Which is why I was glad to find that The Seven Good Years reads familiar like one of his short stories. Each bite-sized chapter dedicatedly captures knick-knack themes and ideas on everything from Etgar’s three-year-old son’s impending military service to the terrorist mindset behind Angry Birds. There’s Lev’s insistence that he is a cat, releasing him from any human responsibilities or rules. Etgar’s siblings, all very different people who have chosen radically divergent paths in life, come together after his father’s shivah to experience the grief and love that tie a family together forever.

In short, I inhaled the book. It’s funny how I really tried to take my time with it, hoping to save it for the weekend, but I found that the more I read, the quicker I began zooming through the pages. Every time I put it aside, I’m convinced I remember the book to be better than it actually is, but then I start reading again and slip so easily into his writing from chapter to chapter.

It’s this passage, in particular, that I recall made me grow fond of the book’s voice:

“Before I started publishing books, I inscribed dedications only in those I bought to give as gifts to people I knew. Then one day I suddenly found myself signing books for people who’d bought them themselves, people I’d never met before. What can you write in the book of a total stranger who may be anything from a serial killer to a Righteous Gentile? “In friendship” borders on falsehood; “With admiration” doesn’t hold water; “Best wishes” sounds too avuncular; and “Hope you enjoy my book!” oozes smarm from the first H to the final exclamation point. So, exactly eighteen years ago, on the last night of my first Book Week, I created my own genre: fictitious book dedications. If the books themselves are pure fiction, why should the dedications be true?
“To Danny, who saved my life on the Litani. If you hadn’t tied that tourniquet, there’d be no me and no book.”

“To Sinai. I’ll be home late tonight, but I left some cholent in the fridge.”
“To Feige. Where’s that tenner I lent you? You said two days and it’s a month already. I’m still waiting.”

To Avram. I don’t care what the lab tests show. For me, you’ll always be my dad.”

And this passage that I took to heart because it put into words what I couldn’t explain:

“They’re a kind of meditative disengagement from the world. Flights are expansive moments when the phone doesn’t ring and the Internet doesn’t work. The maxim that flying time is wasted time liberates me from my anxieties and guilt feelings, and it strips me of all ambitions, leaving room for a different sort of existence. A happy, idiotic existence, the kind that doesn’t try to make the most of time but is satisfied with merely finding the most enjoyable way to spend it.”

This is exactly what keeping Shabbat means, for me.

However, as much as I enjoyed his silly writing, his approach to certain topics rubbed me the wrong way. The main that came to bother me, which I quickly noticed had a recurring theme in the book, was his not-so-subtle hatred for religious Jews. It shows quite apparent when Keret talks about his sister, who made tshuva by “discovering religion” which he, time and again, refers to as: “Nineteen years ago, in a small wedding hall in Bnei Brak, my older sister died, and she now lives in the most Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem.”

He states that his sister won’t read what he writes, which grants him the opportunity to recklessly bash her religious way of life (which, really, only bothers him because it means that he isn’t the one making all the decisions, like whether or not his girlfriend can come over to visit the family whenever he decides). Instead of taking this chance to look into Judaism to connect on a deeper level with his sister (there’s so much intricacies to discuss), he just brushes it off as some kind of “madness.”

I felt it acutely in the following passage on strangers telling him “what a waste” for a pretty face to not show her body to the whole world because she chooses not to: “And then they’d roll down the window and shout to me how broken up they were about my sister. If the rabbis had taken someone ugly, they could’ve handled it; but grabbing someone with her looks—what a waste!”

His choice of words, full of tension simmering just under the surface, hinted at a lot of pent-up anger towards his sister, which he was now releasing through talking remorselessly about her choices in life. It’s unequivocally unfair towards her and her warm family. The only passage that shows them in a good light:

“As I walked into my sister’s house, less than an hour before Shabbat, the children greeted me in unison with their “What’s my name?”—a tradition that began after I once got them mixed up. Considering that my sister has eleven, and that each of them has a double-barreled name, the way the Hasidim usually do, my mistake was certainly forgivable. The fact that all the boys are dressed the same way and decked out with identical sets of payos provides some pretty strong mitigating arguments. But all of them, from Shlomo-Nachman on down, still want to make sure that their peculiar uncle is focused enough, and gives the right present to the right nephew.”

And it doesn’t end with his sister, he also comments on his older brother’s short-lived period in the yeshiva and then their grandmother’s brother, Avraham, who also turned away from religion; implying that they made the better choice in doing so.

It became all the more taxing when Keret had the audacity to claim all the above, but when an elderly Polish woman in Warsaw does the bare minimum (literally preparing a jam sandwich) he commends her. His behavior can be considered textbook Stockholm syndrome: bashing your own people and hugging the ones that stood idly by while your entire family was annihilated…

Anyway, I left The Seven Good Years after the aforementioned with a sour taste in my mouth; I’ll stick to Keret’s fiction from now on.

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

Review: My Beautiful Despair by Kim Kierkegaardashian

I have majorly fallen off my workout-eating plan! AND it’s summer. But to despair over sin is to sink deeper into it.

Before finding My Beautiful DespairI had no clue behind the concept of Kierkegaardashian (‘The love child of Søren Kierkegaard and Kim Kardashian’), so I was in for a treat when it came to this revelation of a book.

A mash-up of Kim’s tweets and observations with Kierkegaard’s philosophy, Kim Kierkegaardashian shares their musings on fashion, beauty, brunch, and the relentless waves of existential dread that wash over us day after day.

Now in a humorous, illustrated gift book, perfectly suited for our existential times, Kierkegaardashian’s philosophical insights are juxtaposed for the first time with Dash Shaw’s brilliant black-and-white illustrations. A sample of the revelations included in My Beautiful Despair include:

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This quick read, conveying the depth of despair through triviality, got a hearty laugh out of me. Though for the most part, I felt more confused with the art choice for certain pieces, more than the actual nonsensical writing included in the book.

Plus, I’m not that big of a Kardashian fan (not even a fan, really) to care enough.

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

Publication Date: July 31st, 2018

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