Monday, March 23, 2009

The History of Love

Nicole Krauss' quirky characters are one of my favourite things about "The History of Love."

"People are desperate to communicate to others, to be seen and heard and understood... I guess human relationships are ultimately the goals of all my characters..." Krauss says in this brief You Tube clip.

As she draws her characters, she blesses them with endearing and defining quirks. Whether she is drawing a portrait of an old man in the form of Leo Gursky, a fourteen year old girl named Alma or a "lamed Vovnik," she bestows them with lovable and memorable tics and indelible yearnings.

For example Leo Gursky keeps the manuscript he is working on in his oven.... it tells you he doesn't use the oven or cook much for himself but it also becomes symbolic for what he is "cooking up," and just how fragile and vulnerable his work in progress really is - it could go up in flames with a misstep. Leo obsesses about who will find him when he dies and does things like drop change in public to make a scene and to be seen. He looks behind himself when he walks in the snow to see if he is actually leaving his footprints behind.

Fourteen year old Alma misses her dead father so much she does things she knows that he has done before her - like set up his tent in her backyard - until she's got it down to a matter of minutes.

Krauss also plays each of these voices to perfect pitch. Leo's eloquent speech is punctuated by frequent use of the abrupt phrase "And yet." Alma's voice is youthfully exhuberant and totally contemporary.

Both yearn to discover the nature and "History of Love."

Here is an interview with Krauss published in New York Magazine.

I was impressed when I read Krauss' credentials. A Stanford graduate with degrees from Oxford, she concentrated on writing poetry early on - which explains her lyrical voice.

The other detail that caught my eye was that she completed her thesis on Joseph Cornell, one of my all-time favourite artists. (But that's another entry!)

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