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If You Give An Italian A Typewriter…

I’ve been getting quite a bit of reading done over the past few days, and I’ve actually finished nine – count ’em – nine books this month. Not all of them were spectacular, and I won’t write reviews for all of them, especially since for a few of them I’ve forgotten a lot of key details, but one that I finished a few weeks ago and found particularly interesting was If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino.

Image result for if on a winter's night a traveler

A curiously unpretentious take on pretentious literature, Calvino’s book is a postmodern story-within-a-story-within-a-story. The book is written in two styles, alternating between chapters. The first style is in second-person, detailing the reader’s journey from a bookshop, where the wrong book was purchased, leading to meeting a girl, and a professor, and on it goes. The second style, in alternating chapters, are random chapters from different books with different titles, locations, and subjects, usually not having anything to do with one another. It took me about halfway through the second chapter to realize this, and also that all the chapter titles, when read one after another, form a complete sentence (albeit long). Even though the second style got confusing, I was more attracted to the first style, seeing the reader’s journey through the book and all. It had a choose-your-own-adventure feel that is not too common in most books today. And the prose, while flowery in parts, didn’t get too flowery and usually circled back to the point within a page or two. It was a fun adventure, but the type you go on once but you’re glad you did and you got home safely.

I thought to myself, “you know, this is kind of like what David Mitchell tried to attempt with Cloud Atlas, only a lot cleaner, crisper, and better.” Ironically, when I looked up the book’s Wikipedia, the two names I see listed other than the author? David Mitchell, and…Scarlett Thomas, AKA one of my literary idols, who adores this book. So it gets some points for association, most definitely, but I did close the book feeling satisfied, so that’s the important thing.

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Staying In and Getting Real: Current Events Roundup, Part One

It seems like I’m always doing “part ones” of series. But anyway, enough about me, so how are you?

I had a pretty productive day, I guess, but instead of going out tonight (it’s a Monday, so it’s par for the course, but whatevs), I decided to stay in, watch TV, and do laundry.

And of course, what is all over the news is pretty shocking. In case you’ve been off the grid for the past few hours, there was an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in England, with 19 people dead, most likely all teenagers or preteens. It’s shocking and troubling, and all over every news and social media platform out there.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is that this week was a gigantic victory elsewhere in the world that no one seems to be celebrating – 82 of the 200+ girls who were kidnapped while taking exams at their school in Nigeria have been found and returned to their parents. When I heard this news yesterday, I was truly elated. I can’t imagine what those families must have been feeling, and the relief that even though the girls endured much horror, they seemed to be happy and healthy to be back with their parents. I couldn’t stop clicking through YouTube videos of the happy reunions. I’ve always thought that if what had happened in Nigeria happened in the USA or Canada or England, the entire world would be up in arms, and not forget after a few days like they did when it happened 3 years ago. I’ve actually been thinking about it since it happened, I even remember where I was when I first found out about it, getting ready to embark on my first Summer Odyssey back in 2014. It was shocking then, and it’s stayed with me consistently ever since. Although I’m really happy that those 82 are back, in addition to the 50 or so others who’ve escaped/been rescued over the years, there are still around 100 unaccounted for, which is way too many people to just forget about.

And just like the parents of the kids who died, were injured, or are MIA in Manchester right now, the parents of the Nigerian girls haven’t forgotten, despite the world seeming to do so.

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Flip the Script Friday: Isaac Bashevis Singer and Eve Friedman, Teibele And Her Demon

In honor of the triumphant return of Twin Peaks, and because I still have the book out from the library, here’s another selection from 13 Plays of the Ghosts and the Supernatural. This one reaches back into Jewish folklore: Teibele And Her Demon, by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Eve Friedman.

The playbill of this play is really awkward looking, yes, more awkward than this, so I used a picture from what seems to be a Romanian production. (http://www.teatrul-evreiesc.com.ru)

 

The Basics

Teibele And Her Demon was first performed in New York City on 16 December 1979.

Characters

  • Alchonon – a “shabby scholar”
  • Teibele – a young, attractive agunah, or woman trapped in marriage in Orthodox Judaism
  • Menasha – Alchonon’s friend, a peddler
  • Genendel – Teibele’s friend, a widoe
  • Rabbi
  • Various others

Setting/Plot

1880s, the small town of Frampol, Poland. Teibele is an agunah, or a “chained woman;” since her husband Moshe Mattis is missing and it is not certain as to whether he is alive or dead, she is still considered to be married to him without any hope of initiating a divorce and continuing on with her life. One night, Alchonon enters Teibele’s bedroom as “Hurmizah,” a demon, and the two start a relationship; however, in real life, Teibele can’t stand Alchonon. Teibele’s “demon lover” tells her to marry the man she despises, (who is, obviously, the same person), and uses Menasha’s forgery skills to get a fake death certificate to make that happen. However, when Menasha tries to pull the same stunt on Genendel, he accidentally reveals everything to everyone, including Teibele, who is in complete disbelief that the man she loves is actually the man she hates.

My Thoughts

I actually really wanted to know what would happen at the end. In the first scene with Alchonon as the demon in bed with Teibele, I thought it was some kind of sex game, but quite obviously it’s not. Other than the rabbi, all of the other characters are completely stupid; Teibele, for actually believing she has a demon lover (that’s only for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, honey); Genendel, for encouraging her; Alchonon, for screwing up so badly as the demon that he almost gets his cover blown a number of times; and Menasha, for screwing everything up because he wanted to play with everyone. Even though the idiot guys get their comeuppance at the end, it’s not as simple as that in the story.

Fifty Shades of…Okay

Why, why, why did Teibele believe it? It’s a classic Jekyll-and-Hyde, Steve-Urkel-and-Stefan-Urquelle thing, only worse because he doesn’t even really change his appearance, basically just his tone of voice and some of the things he says, which are pretty weird. At first, Teibele just seems like she just wants to get kinky, but towards the end, when she gets confused, we see that she was not the one in control all along, and being chained to her demon-lover fantasy almost kills her. Fortunately, Alchonon has two brain cells to rub together in order to, well, if not save her, than salvage a kind of messed-up situation. There’s also the whole thing with, why’d this girl just constantly do it with a stranger who snuck into her bedroom? Once you realize she’s not in control, it turns from enjoyable and almost erotic to, wow, this woman has no clue what is going on.

Overall, it’s a clean little play that goes rather far out there for being two short acts. It’s like a bite-size version of a Buffy/Fifty Shades hybrid, only with European Jewish stick people in old-timey nightwear instead of sexy lingerie. Which could also classify it as a comedy.

How I’d Flip It

Modernizing it would basically just turn it into another Fifty Shades, but researching pajamas of the era would be interesting. For some reason, I’m thinking black box, with a lot of cardboard cutouts, maybe some sneaky entrances/exits, or trapdoors. One cool think would be to have a black set in front of a curtain painted to look like fire, and window panes used as entrances (for the demon). Blacks and reds seem to be the order of the day, but of course I’m seeing Teibele in a white gown. For some reason, I’m also imagining a red/black/white plaid pattern as a motif (bed, carpet, costume accents), something most likely not used or seen in Poland, because this is crazy-land version of Poland.

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What To Do When You Have No Friends

Not all of us are lucky enough to live with friends. Or even have them. But there can be a way around that…in a roundabout way.

So, last night, I wanted to watch a video online that was thirty minutes long, but I also needed to make some (ratchet) dinner. Most of what I wanted out of the video was actually what they were saying (it was a video of two guys talking and playing video games) rather than the visual, so I chrome-casted my computer to my TV. When I do that, it uses the TV volume, so it ends up being extraordinarily loud. And unlike TV, the sound on a YouTube video is not always so filtered out. Therefore, with the volume cranked up, you can hear breathing, chairs squeaking, noisy eating, and any background noises – the stuff that is excised from most television shows. And if I closed my eyes, I could imagine that there were actually two guys playing video games behind me as I cooked. I can usually hear my neighbors and all the noisy noise they and their friends make almost every night, so I imagined all my neighbors walking past my place, jealous of all the video gaming and fun going on in apartment 803.

In other news, has anyone seen that new commercial for the Princess Diana documentary? It’s weird that they have the horror-movie “one dark and scary night voice” to voice-over advertisements about a (mostly) positive documentary on her life.

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Ratchet Salad/Whatever Dinner

Isn’t it so great that when you decide to eat healthy (or try, happy syttende mai, Norske Nook lefse and pie), there’s a huge thunderstorm outside and there’s nothing in the house to eat?

I started off with some sliced meat I found. I think I had four bites before being like…yeah, it doesn’t expire for another month but it sure feels that way. For some reason, I had two bags of radishes, and not much else. So I ended up having a ratchet lady-from-work salad consisting of lettuce, a ton of sliced radish, some dried cranberries, and…that was it. Tossed with some oil and vinegar, it actually wasn’t too bad. I topped off the meal with some basil and herb couscous.

And of course, now the rain has stopped, but I don’t feel like going outside, especially if it starts raining again. Apparently this is what my life has come to. That, and reorganizing my bookshelf.

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From Snowstorms to Sunscreen (and a little coin jewelry)

Yes, writing about the weather is so boring and banal, but I’m not feeling too inspired these days (which is evident if you’ve been to my apartment recently) but it’s gotten really warm and sunny, all of a sudden. I spent several hours outside selling jewelry at the cart on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and even though I put on sunscreen, I still managed to get quite a lovely burn on my arms and forehead. It’s only May and I already look like I’m done with summer.

In other news…I do wonder if anyone reading this would be interested in buying some of the jewelry I sell. It’s all made by my dear friend right here in Madison from vintage/recycled materials from all around the world, so think global shop local (I came up with that one!) We don’t have a web presence just yet, but here’s some of the stuff we sell. If you’d like to own any of it, just comment below, I’ll send it to you, and we can work out some type of payment plan or something.

Here is a selection of just a few of the coin earrings that we sell, made from real coins from around the world. They sell for $15 USD, and if you’re interested, just let me know. I took pictures of eight of our stock, from the beginning of the alphabet, and I will take more pictures – we have many more coins, and other items as well – and upload them here sometime. These coins are from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, and Bhutan. I’ll send them anywhere…any takers?

Ooh la la