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Goodbye, Literature

The break, not surprisingly, has not been total. In these years I’ve read a few literary works, basically when enthused friends demanded it; I’ve also written a few stories and poems, basically when urges were irresistible. But, considering what those earlier decades were like, it has been about as total as such a break can be. That, naturally, entails loss.

I carted my books — all of them — with me in my two recent moves; in my Tel Aviv apartment and in this current one, I set them up as well as I could — including the old, no longer relevant ones, the ones that still impart a thrill of beauty when I glance at them. Now it’s they that are relics; while I’m current, engaged and writing about the country I live in. This was, unfortunately, a zero-sum game; either those books were going to turn into a still, forgotten pond or I was.

These days, of course, I have trouble even getting to the sort of books — on Israeli and Middle Eastern politics and history — I see as a necessary nurturer for what I’m writing. A bewildering profusion of news and commentary comes out on the internet every day; I have to decide what not to read. Even late at night — when once I might have borne down on some gems by Frost, Dickinson, Wordsworth — I tend instead to hang around on Facebook, or browse YouTube with a glass of something day-ending and universe-justifying in hand.

And the books, the old ones, surround me with their silence. I don’t keep up with the world literary scene; but I understand that the book market in general is drooping, and don’t get the sense that literature plays a huge part in people’s lives. And that desultory heap is still there in the corner of the room, unresolved and, I fear, all too symbolic.

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images courtesy shutterstock / Africa Studio / Complot

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