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Title: History of Love
Author: Nicole Krauss
Year I read it: 2011
One sentence summary: A "beautifully sad," multiple-narrator novel about an aged and lonely holocaust survivor named Leopold Gursky and the lives his writing unknowingly changed--including his own.
Interesting fact: Krauss incorporates Bruno Schulz's Street of Crocodiles in her novel, a book which her husband, fellow NYT-bestselling author Jonathan Safran Foer, literally carved up to form a new book, Tree of Codes.
Three reasons to read it:
- Leopold Gursky. He remains one of my favorite characters - romantic, tragic, comic. I love his grumpy self. And his writing... his writing is like a romantic poet's, but without being pretentious; it's like a post-modern's without being depressing.
- This is a writer's mystery novel - working out the tangles Krauss has woven takes 4 narrators and several intriguing twists. [After reading this for class, my professor had us each create a chronological sequence of events - only a few people were accurate, and I didn't pick up everything until a read-through]
- This book is "beautifully sad" in a remarkable way. It somehow is both happy and sad, but, overall, extremely satisfying. Krauss's language, intertextuality, and symbolism is really lovely.
- Some adult content.
"All I want is not to die on a day when I went unseen."
When I saw a Starbucks I went in and bought a coffee because I felt like a coffee, not because I wanted anyone to notice me. Normally I would have made a big production, Give me a Grande Vente, I mean a Tall Grande, Give me a Chai Super Vente Grande, or do I want a Short Frappe? and then, for punctuation, I would've had a small mishap at the milk station. Not this time. I poured the milk like a normal person, a citizen of the world, and sat down in an easy chair across from a man reading the newspaper. I wrapped my hands around the coffee. The warmth felt good. The next table over there was a girl with blue hair leaning over a notebook and chewing on a ballpoint pen, and at the table next to her was a little boy in a soccer uniform sitting with his mother who told him, The plural of elf is elves. A wave of happiness came over me. It felt giddy to be part of it all. To be drinking a cup of coffee like a normal person. I wanted to shout: The plural of elf is elves! What a language! What a world!
“Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists, where everything was discovered, and everything was possible. A stick could be a sword, a pebble could be a diamond, a tree, a castle. Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a house across the field, from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. She was queen and he was king. In the autumn light her hair shone like a crown. They collected the world in small handfuls, and when the sky grew dark, and they parted with leaves in their hair.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”
“there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone.”
"When will you learn that there isn't a word for everything?"
"Life is a thing of beauty and a joy forever."