8/08/11: Nicole Krauss

Just read The Great House by Nicole Krauss, published October 2010. It came into my hands thanks to the Pierce County Library, which had a copy of it in their new books display. I’ve had a copy of her second book, The History of Love (2006), on my bookshelf for some years (if it’s traversed the cross-country journey with me), but for some reason, haven’t read it. And I see now that her first novel, Man Walks into a Room was published in 2003 (don’t you just love that title?).

I can highly recommend reading this novel, so I won’t reveal the story, which is one of self-fragmented losses; it’s beautifully written in a style that holds tight to its secrets. At the end, I wasn’t at all sure I had caught all of the ties that bound the human characters to the main character—a desk that was lost during the holocaust and haunted its various owners over 50 or so decades. But that uncertainty was the story–what we can never know or never reveal about ourselves; the sudden understanding that our lives have been mistakes of our own creation; the self-doubts that accompanies the inability to form connections.

The book embraced me with its strong atmosphere of literary regret and human betrayal in the voice of a middle-aged writer, who comes to see that her writing only served to divorce her from life. But writing is not the only culpable device for failure of connection. Other characters faced things about themselves and their closest relationships that destroy faith. The fragmentation serves to remind us that there are under-stories and uber-stories and we will never really know what is present or past.

Recently, somewhere, I read (or perhaps saw on a video) something that reminded me of joy. I was immediately aware that joy (in the sense of a bodily sensation that all is well) is a facet of life that does not exist for me any more. I didn’t like remembering this, it was painful. I wondered if I had simply taken the wrong path. Regardless, I understood that I’ve chosen another path. So be it.

Krauss seems to be on a parallel track to what I am trying (less than successfully) to describe here. Perhaps it is this: a graceful and eloquent acceptance of the improbability (impossibility?) of human connection and human joy.

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