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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

A story that's not about ... or is it?: One Graham Short

Nice to see a story, One Graham Short, in The New Yorker by an Israeli writer - Etgar (?) Keret - that's not about contemporary social issues, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, religious fanaticism, just about a guy - could be American or British and anything, it doesn't really matter - who develops a crush on the girl who waits on him in his local coffeeshop and - hearing that she is into "recreational drugs" wants to come on to her by offering to smoke some weed with her (figures she won't turn that down, though she might turn down and invite to a movie or to dinner, leaving him forlorn), but first he has to acquire some marijuana, so he looks up an old h.s. pal who was a known stoner and asks if he can provide but the guy says he's completely "dry" since they've tightened security on the Egyptian and Syrian borders, but the guy works out a deal: a local lawyer who has a medical-marijuana perscription is willing to give them some marijuana return for their agreeing to accompany him to court and pretending to be the grieving and enraged friends of the (friendless) couple he represents, whose daughter was killed by a young driver of Egyptian descent and whose large family is there to support plea for a light sentence, so they go to court, scream at the other family, call them terrorists, get into a brawl, and the only way our narrator can bring himself to participate is to use his imagination and picture the coffee-shop girl as his wife and the victim as their late daughter. After the fracas, the lawyer provides, and he goes to the coffeeshop, face bruised from the fight - the waitress asks what happens, he says he fell, she indicates she'd be more interested had he been hurt in a fight (ha!), which gives him the courage to ask her to to smoke weed w/ him but to go to a movie - what he'd wanted all along - and (spoiler here ...) we never get her answer - but he does reflect that now he can't help but thinking of her not as a beautiful woman but as the mother of a car-accident victim. Wait a minute. Did I say this was not a story about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, about border conditions, about religious fanaticsm? At the end, we see surprisingly that it's a story about all of these things - subtly and mysteriously: the ethnic-religious tensions work their way insidiously into every aspect of contemporary life in Israeli, poisoning the legal system, the economic system (the sealed borders), the reckless behavior of youth (being "dry"), even fantasies, even crushes, even love. Excellent, concise story.

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