Reading Life 2016

October 2016

  1. Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission (history), by Hampton Sides
  2. A Short History of Women (novel) by Kate Walbert

September 2016

  1. The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (nonfiction), by Ben Ehrenreich
  2. Brazillionaires (nonfiction), by Alex Cuadros

August 2016

  1. Northanger Abbey (novel), by Jane Austen
  2. Swimming Studies (memoir), by Leann Sharpton
  3. The Course of Love (novel), by Alain de Botton
  4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Sketches (travel book, poetry), by Matsuo Basho
  5. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (essay collection), by Olivia Laing

July 2016

  1. The Green Road (novel), by Anne Enright
  2. Girl Waits With Gun (mystery), by Amy Stewart

June 2016

  1. The Girl on the Train (novel), by Paula Hawkins
  2. My Brilliant Friend (novel), by Elena Ferrante

May 2016 Read the rest of this entry »

Visionary Art in Umm Al-Kheir

Self recognizes that she’s moving soooo slowly through The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. But she is absolutely fascinated by its intimate glimpses of men and women, settlers and Palestinians.

In the chapter on the village of Umm al-Kheir, we meet a man named Eid Suleiman al-Hathalin. Self swears: every time she quotes from Ehrenreich’s book, she has to double-check the spelling of everything at least three times. But she really really wants to get Eid’s name right. He is a true original: a vegan in Palestine (“I love animals, but it’s not that. Meat is very heavy.”), and also a found-art sculptor.

His sculptures, gleaming and immaculate, filled five metal shelves beside the door. There were two bulldozers — one with wheels and one with treads — plus a dump truck and an excavator, all of them Caterpillars and painted a deep, glossy yellow. There was the old Black Hawk I had seen before, plus a white Volvo 420 big rig, and a green John Deere tractor hauling a trailer. Each piece was about two feet long and built to scale with an astonishing degree of perfectionism.

Eid proudly shows Ehrenreich the excavator:

He showed me how the machine’s body detached from the treads, and the cab from the body. The cab was only slightly larger than his fist. “I didn’t forget any details,” he said, “even the ladder here that the operator can use.” It had perfect little side mirrors too, and radio antennae, and its door opened on a tiny hinge and there was a seat inside for the driver, a gearshift in the floor, a tiny control panel panel complete with tiny dials. Eid had carved the chair from a bottle of shampoo and the windows from plastic soda bottles. The mirrors and lights he made from CDs and the reflective panel on the back of the machine was cut from a cast-off license plate. The whole thing was fully functional — the excavator swiveled on its treads, and its arm extended and bent at three joints.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Eid’s dream is “to have one of his pieces added to the permanent collection of the Caterpillar museum at the corporation’s headquarters in Peoria, Illinois.”

Stay tuned.

THE WAY TO THE SPRING: Herding Goats in Umm al-Kheir

With a stick, Suleiman traced a circle in the dirt to represent the route we had just trekked. He drew a straight line across it to indicate the far shorter path we could have taken, the one he had used for years before the settlement’s expansion. “Where will we go?” he asked. He pointed up to the sun and sky, as if he might find pasture there, or as if God might have an answer. We walked on along a slender strip of dirt between two fields of wheat. On top of the hill to our left sprawled five aluminum-sided barns ringed by barbed wire — a dairy farm owned by settlers. If we got too close, Hassan said, they would come down or send the police. So we zigzagged on across the dry, hard land, avoiding one obstacle here, another there. The goats were sneezing dirt.

The Way to the Spring, Chapter 9, pp. 300 – 301

More From The Way to the Spring: Near Ramallah

Qalandia Checkpoint, Ramallah, West Bank (The Way to the Spring, p. 251)

  • Technically, Qalandia fell within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, but when the wall was built, it became a border crossing between Israel and the West Bank. It developed its own ecosystem, as borders do. You could buy cigarettes without leaving your car, or Spongebob bedspreads, or plastic jugs of purple pickled eggplant. Men sold coffee and kebabs from carts. Women sold produce or stood begging with their infants in their arms.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE WAY TO THE SPRING: Sentences

I stayed bundled up indoors and dragged the space heater with me from room to room like a silent, glowing dog. (p. 239)


Scratch any surface in the West Bank and you’ll find prison lurking just below. “Those who enter jail in our country become like a shuttle in a weavers hand, forever coming in and going out.” (Emile Habiby, quoted on p. 240)

 

The Photographs in THE WAY TO THE SPRING

Self doesn’t think any of the reviews have mentioned the photographs in The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. But they are powerful. They make you see the people behind the words and the politics.

The first one that catches her attention is Bassem Tamimi in his living room in Nabi Saleh, taken by Keven Manor: Bassem has a somewhat Peter Stormare look about him.

The picture immediately below it is pretty stunning: Ahed and Nariman Tamimi outside their home in Nabi Saleh, Summer 2012, taken by Peter van Agtmael (the captions are infinitesimally small: she can barely read them, in fact. Must get bifocals!) The same photographer took the stunning picture of a boy taking cover as soldiers fire rubber-coated bullets, somewhere near Nabi Saleh, February 2013. And a third picture by van Agtmael is so sweeping and powerful, in composition it reminds self a little of Goya: Men sit beside a fire in the ruins of Shuja’iyya.

Many of the photographs are by author Ben Ehrenreich. Of Ehrenreich’s photos, self’s favorite is one of Eid Suleiman al-Hathalin’s daughter, Lin.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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