Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Woman in Jerusalem

I love my family, but oh do they make me long for quiet (well, the loud side of my family anyway, which is the side I mostly spent this latest holiday with). I got home and it was totally quiet and such a relief. Of course my apartment is a train wreck and my cat is essentially dying of a nice heart disease/kidney failure combo (although hopefully he's dying very slowly--keep your fingers crossed, folks) so you can't have it all.

Between the bus rides to and from Virginia though, and some stolen moments during my stay there, I was able to finish A Woman in Jerusalem by A. B. Yehoshua. It's not that I didn't like it, but I had the same problem with it that I've had with most of the books I've read so far this year: I enjoyed it, but I could put it down; it had as its subject an interesting topic, but it never seemed to go as far as it needed to; I wanted to like it but was, in the end, was left with vague feelings of dissatisfaction.

Jerusalem explores issues of societal responsibility, the kinds of love--most particularly those sudden and inexplicable bursts of fellow feeling, sympathy, and affection that can take us unawares--that tend to get short shrift both in literature and in life, and guilt. By identifying the characters by occupation or position in life--the human resource manager, the emissary, the ex-wife, the consul, etc.--Yehoshua seems to be making a sort of gesture toward universality as well as situating his characters within a larger society. It's not an uninteresting set of preoccupations for a book. The problem is that it's so damn tasteful (even the jacket cover is polite). I feel like it's a book that needs a bit of dirt under its fingernails.

Still, I'm beginning to wonder if the problem is really the books or if it's me. Am I too distracted or preoccupied to appreciate what I'm reading? Have I become a lazy reader who wants to be hand fed? Am I just doing a shitty job of choosing books that will speak to me? Whatever it is, I hope my reading luck turns around soon because I could really use some time with a great book just now.

1 comment:

Molly said...

I think you might be interested in what A.B. Yehoshua has to say about Americans for Peace Now...a pro-Israel pro-Peace organization. http://peacenow.org/entries/a_letter_from_ab_yehoshua