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To Be a Man: Stories von Nicole Krauss
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To Be a Man: Stories (2020. Auflage)

von Nicole Krauss (Autor)

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Spanning the globe, these ten stories are told with an elegance, a hallmark of Krause's voice. Relationships, connections, events, moments in life that are memorable, re expound within. Whether portraying teenagers or people in fearful circumstances, her characters thoughts, feelings seem authentic. There are moments of beauty mixed with sadness, regret mixed with triumph.

I enjoyed all of these, but as usual some more than others. The title story is probably her strongest but the story that has stayed with me is titled, Amour. It is far from your typical story about love since it takes place in a refugee camp and features a young women who is in terrible health. Yet, she remembers love and love is shown to her in this camp. It is sad, ugly circumstances, yet there are moments of wonder and the prose, phrasing is amazing.

"I want to say that the movies she blew into our minds with her magic-lantern words achieved their higher form, their highest, with everything else she stripped away from them."

A collection to cherish for those who love this authors writings. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jan 17, 2021 |
Nicole Krauss is a favorite author of mine; even when Krauss's books are very flawed (like her last book, Forest Dark) they are a still a joy to read for those of us who appreciate good writing. I was so happy to find that in her new short story collection Krauss is consistently near the top of her game, and occasionally transcends what I would classify as her highs. (The Great House and History of Love are two of my favorite books, so her highs are pretty high IMO.)

In TBaM Krauss repeatedly returns to that central character with feet placed firmly in both Israel in NY, cursed by that particularly Jewish one-two-punch of having your Jewishness being absolutely central in your life while also being an Atheist. It's frustrating and confusing and sometimes leads to hard athletic sex with burly Germans. (I get you grrrrrl!) Krauss also takes the opportunity to revisit her divorce. Intellectually I cringe at the artistic mileage she and JSF have gotten out of that divorce. The ongoing novelization of their split has lead to some really good stuff, this book and JSF's Here I Am are both exceptional, and also to not so good stuff (the aforementioned Forest Dark.) But as a reader there are times I feel like a voyeur, and not in a good way. Wwatching them is the opposite of sexy. Both of them write books that seem like psychological dick pics. As a reader I find myself in the middle of some character's self-analysis, and all I can think is "Ew, put it away, I did not ask to see THAT! That said, I am never going to ding a writer for showing too much of herself when the product is quality.

This is a cohesive and impactful collection. If Forest Dark was Krauss wading through her divorce, this book is the process of her dealing with the aftermath. The writing? Well, damn! For the most part it simply could not be better. Krauss has a knack, like Laurie Moore, of entering and exiting stories at weird and perfect times, which leave you thinking hard about what happened before and after. That is a favorite thing for me, and I have seen many writers try and fail to do the same. Krauss is a master. As with any collection some stories are better than others.

The first story, Switzerland, is one of the best stories I have ever read. Downright masterful how in this tiny glimpse we see the dawning of sexuality through the eyes of a father, an adolescent girl and later through that girl's eyes when she herself is a parent. All those perspectives are on the page with such truth and completeness. Other favorites were I am Asleep but My Heart is Awake, which made me think about my choices with respect to men and relationships after having been entirely focused on being part of a unit from the age of 13 into my 40's. Zusya on the Roof was also a favorite. It really crystalized the tension between Jewish tribalism and personal autonomy.

End Days was compelling, and despite the fact I don't think it fully came together I still thought it extraordinary. It was so close, I understood and felt where she was going. I loved the use of the wildfires as existential threat and looming destruction, and also as a backdrop for a bit of resurrection. But in the end the "resolution" did not make sense for me - though the denouement made perfect sense as an act for the character, it did not work as an endpoint for the whole story. I also wanted to understand the parents' choices better. The parents here are so self-involved, and unempathic, and really just such shitty parents, that it was hard to reconcile them with their daughter's rosy view of them. Since those parents seemed so much like the characters in JSF and Krauss' books about their divorce, I assume they were the models for the parents. I needed Krauss to explain them to me a little in this story to round out the whole but I think that would take some self-actualization she not yet be capable of (but should be capable of given the amount of time she has clearly spent on self-analysis.) It was frustrating but again, still exquisite. To Be a Man also left me wishing for something more to connect some threads, while also still being a compelling and disturbing story.

Overall this is a high 4 on average, but not quite perfect enough to push me to 5. It is mostly great though, it really truly is. ( )
  Narshkite | Jan 6, 2021 |
To Be A Man by Nicole Krauss

A new collection of short stories by an acclaimed novelist. Her early novel, The History of Love, remains an all-time favorite of mine. Krauss’s stories reflect her long held interests in creativity, Jewish traditions, identity and insights into human psychology and relationships.

The ten stories are all good yet three in particular stood out for me.

‘Switzerland” recounts the story of three adolescent girls as they attend a prep school on the outskirts of Geneva. The narrator, youngest of the three, relates the lessons learned from her older, more adventurous roommates. The story reveals their budding feminine sexuality, that can both empower and threaten one’s balance in life. Back home in the States, our narrator concludes, “what I’d seen had been a kind of grace: the grace that comes of having pushed oneself to the brink, of having confronted some darkness or fear and won.”

In contrast, “Zusya on the Roof”, explores a life predicament of an older Jewish man living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Burdened with the history and traditions of his Jewish life he questions life as his grandson’s bris (ritual circumcision) is about to take place. “Brodman saw the true shape of his life, how it had torqued always in the direction of duty. Not only his life but the life of his people-the three thousand years of treacherous remembering, highly regarded suffering, and waiting.” As he ponders the meaning of his life as a professor of history an author of “a meager output of books, themselves commentaries on commentaries on other books”, he declares to his therapist, “I simply reject the burden” of being an obedient Jew who had carried the burden of his parents and all of Jewish history on his back.

A few of the stories take place between New York and Israel. A daughter visits her deceased father’s apartment in Tel Aviv. In another story, "To Be A Man", a divorced mother of two boys, revisits Israel and takes up with two Israeli men, one she calls “the German Boxer” whom she wonders what he would have done in Nazi Germany, and the other an Israeli paratrooper- a Special Forces soldier- who became a renowned modern dancer.

Krauss comments on the interplay between the Jew in the diaspora and the Jew in Israel. As one of her characters deals with these divided loyalties; “Always on the plane back to Israel Tamar feels the excitement of finally going home, only to land and remember why she left”.

This is an easy entry into the realm of Nicole Krauss’s fictional world. For a deeper dive I highly recommend, A History of Love. ( )
  berthirsch | Nov 22, 2020 |
Smart, empathetic collection about people in relationship with and orbiting each other, life and death (well, I guess that's most stories, but those themes form a real core to the collection). The stories here are unexpected but never gimmicky—sometimes a bit too wispy to pack a punch (the title story was not my favorite) but more often solid and astute. Standouts for me were "Switzerland," "I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake," "The Husband," but the entire collection is very worthwhile. ( )
1 abstimmen lisapeet | Nov 12, 2020 |
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