It’s been awhile since you’ve read, I bet

I love me some T.I.  Maybe you recognize the lyric I was stealing as my title for the blog.  I don’t listen to much rap/hip-hop.. but when I do, I remember ALL the lyrics.

Okay, so that is actually very unrelated to this post.  I haven’t read in awhile.  I go through spurts of reading… because reading involves silence and getting lost in a world the author creates and I envision in my head..  But silence isn’t something I want when I’m often on my own, so I listen to music or I watch lots of shows or movies.  Hence, this short story collection I started is taking some time to finish 😄 There are still about 8 more left to read after this set of 3.  Here’s to hoping I finish this collection soon so I can start something new.

The Worst You Ever Feel by Rebecca Makkai is a story about a boy growing up in America, and being surrounded by survivors of the Holocaust.  This particular story moved me..  I don’t have any direct roots to the holocaust. My great grandmother is a Polish Jew and came to America during the war… but she is too many greats ago for me to have known.  I cannot even imagine what it was like for these people: the ones that survived the camps, the ones that survived in hiding, and the ones that did the hiding.  

Aaron’s father came to America just before the war hit home, but Aaron’s father’s music teacher and fellow students stayed behind.  The story is set during the time long after the war, and the violin teacher is visiting Aaron’s home.  Apparently Aaron has premonitions.. but I’m not fooled like others in the novel.  The title comes from a saying that Aaron’s father constantly says to his son: “May this be the worst you ever feel.”  People who experience pain (which is everyone) have a way of putting others down if in their personal opinion the other person’s pain isn’t worse than their own…  That is what Aaron’s father does.  Although Aaron’s father did not experience anything physical, he lost a lot of people he held near and dear to his heart.  He felt those people’s suffering because  he was so close to them.  Aaron’s father believes that Aaron will not experience something so terrible.  I can understand where the father is coming from.. because, like I said, I can’t imagine what those people went through.  But… everyone has their own personal Holocaust.  

I think Aaron wants to understand his father.  Or, be someone his father could hold as precious as he does the people he lost in Romania.  So Aaron’s “premonitions” are Aaron’s attempts to understand what his father might be feeling… and because his father doesn’t think this is possible, he writes the empathy off as a premonition… so Aaron becomes rabbi-like.  This, of course, made Aaron believe he was special, because if his father thinks so it must be true.  The end of the story reveals to Aaron something different.

During the story, we learn more about the violinist’s past as he’s playing music.  Aaron reveals to us what he thinks is the truth based on what he feels during the songs.  Aaron plays a song with Radelescu, the violinist, and his mother.  Aaron gets a glimpse of his father’s face.. he sees in this face not the pain of loss, but the pain of guilt.  His father feels guilty for not being there… his phrase “May this be the worst pain you feel” is about himself… that the understanding Aaron tries to attain to be closer to his father is exactly what everyone in the room is trying to do to be closer to those who endured the Holocaust: “they were common sense, floating for anyone to see, more tangible and opaque than any ghost.”

The next line goes on to say that Aaron doesn’t see things because he’s American.  I feel as though the author is slightly resentful to the fact that we don’t suffer the same as other countries do.  This might be true…  I think I’m inclined to agree.  However, we all have our own Holocaust.  What may seem silly to survivors of the actual Holocaust may be disastrous to the one experiencing it…

The Wizard of West Orange by Steven Millhauser has a completely different composition than other stories in the collection.  The closest one would be The Year of Silence.  This story documents the story day by day.. but it is a journal of a person.  In fact, I was highly annoyed at the bad grammar.  Although the text is mostly notes by the Librarian, and I understand they are notes… I always write my own notes with sentences that contain subject, verb, and proper tense.  To top it all off, this story is longer than the rest.  So I had to go through SO MANY pages while digesting a badly written story (grammatically).  I don’t care if that was the point…

Anyway, the story is about an invention called the Haptograph.

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I think it’s the most interesting part of the story.  Who came up with this idea?  The author… if it was him… he should patent it.  It is an invention that amplifies and renews the sense of touch.  I know what you are thinking… sex.  Well, that’s what I was thinking.. but perhaps I wasn’t thinking about the sense of touch the way the scientists in the story are thinking about the sense of touch 😄

The Librarian is the note-taker.  He writes things like: “It is possible that every touch remains present in skin.  These buried hapto-memories capablie of being re-awakened through mechanical simulation.” or

” ‘The skin is by far the largest organ of sense.  And yet we know almost nothing about it.’ “

“Blind skin.  Let me see!”

“Haptograph: instrument of revelation.”

“the world is hidden from us — that our bodies, which seem to bring us the riches of the earth, prevent the world from reaching us.”

Basically, the Librarian is a lab-rat for the experiments involving the Haptograph, and becomes addicted to the sensations the machine instills.  The machine goes through familiar senses like holding a ball, but then goes into unfamiliar touches.  The Librarian highly enjoys those feelings… like a lot.  So now he thinks that he’s felt something others never would on a normal day…

To me.. it just seems like the Librarian doesn’t get out much.  Nor is he observant of how his skin feels during other experiences.  However, the Haptograph has to be doing something different, because the other lab-rat is scared out of his wits by the machine.

I don’t know.  The ideas, like the quotes above, are interesting.  So I really like the underlying concept of this story.

The last story is called Nawabdin Electrician by Daniyal Mueenuddin.  There’s this man… he has 12 daughters.  He must find a way to earn their dowry so he can marry them off eventually.  This good man cons his boss into buying him a motorcycle, which he uses for side jobs as well.  “His freedom” allows him to see his family more often, allows him to make more money, and it gives him more respect among other peasants.

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SO one night, he gives a hitchhiker a ride.  He obviously never watched horror movies… because this guys pulls a gun on him.  Shoots him in the legs 3 times.  But the bike won’t start for the thief.  Someone heard the shots, came to Nawab’s rescue.  It was that respect as the Electrician and his motorcycle that saved him.

“He thought of the motorcycle, saved, and the glory of saving it.  Six shots, six coins thrown down, six chances, and not one of them had killed him, not Nawabdin Electrician.”

So this guy is now a legend.  A LEGEND.

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Let me know if you are reading any of the same things as me.  It’d be cool to have an actual discussion.

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