Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Amos Oz's "My Curls Have Blown All the Way to China," translated from the Hebrew by Maggie Goldberg Bar-Tura, was originally published in the September 21, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

CoverStory-Foley-Crosswalk-690-942-11152805Next month, the Nobel Prize for Literature will be awarded, and Amos Oz is a perennial favorite. It’s nice, then, to be able to sit down with a new story from the master.

Please leave your thoughts on the piece or Oz — or whatever else — below and join in the conversation.

I want to thank Adrienne for her initial thoughts — they are so valuable! Here she is with her initial take on this story:

What a brilliant treatment of codependency!

It was uncomfortable to read — to be spun around in Bracha’s mind! But the hardest part to read was her conversation with her grandson at the end. I had begun to believe she would be okay, maybe even grow. She seems to have accepted the event that sparked the story, and we can even feel her loosening her attempts to try and control. Then she violently slams the innocent child with her own self-contrived pain — her warped mindset.

I have never read any Amos Oz before. The way he approached the wounded female protagonist, the way he guided us through the ins and outs of a victim mentality, the sensitivity to the feminine was impressive. I do not know if the female translator had anything to do with this.

So much of this tale points to the hopelessness facing Bracha, even as she tries to claim responsibility — as she tries to find a way to know, even attempt to intuit, all the details so that she may change the situation. The loss of her feminine curls, as symbols of mourning; the image of the hair blowing on the wind, going as far away as China; writing on a notepad, list that turn out to be an unloading of pain, finally addressed to a friend from days gone by; and the stages of grief exemplify her despair. And then the conversation with the grandson . . .

Oh — how my heart broke!

The lists are introduced at the outset, and then pepper the story as Bracha waxes and wanes in her emotions and thoughts. With the first lists, we see clearly her thoughts about herself, her husband, her home, and we just gloss over them. They could be very normal and healthy, but with the husband’s declaration of “I just have no choice,” we reexamine their relationship. It becomes obvious what type of man Moshe is, but it is harder to define Bracha.

I struggled with deciding between compassion and anger for this woman. There was sadness for her loss, bitterness for her mindset, and outrage for her final actions.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Mookse and the Gripes on Patreon!
By |2015-09-14T15:11:02+00:00September 14th, 2015|Categories: Amos Oz, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: , |5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Consolation Sweater September 16, 2015 at 5:20 am

    After several not so good, not so bad stories, the New Yorker greets us this week with a profoundly entertaining comedy about a woman of 66 whose husband’s, well, leavin’ her. While I know the New Yorker fiction section is infamous for their affinity toward fiction that ventures into the extramarital, Mr. Oz’s story stands out among a fair amount of their recent “she’s leaving me omg” stories owing, mostly, to his style of delivery.

    Amos Oz, an Israeli writer, journalist, and professor, writes in Hebrew. He’s 76 years old, has won big shot prizes like France’s Legion of Honor and the Israel Prize, and has written novels like, A Tale of Love & Darkness, a wonderful autobiographical novel about his childhood & teenage years, which you should totally check out if you feel like delving more into Mr. Oz.

    “My Curls Have Blown All the Way to China” starts off hilariously, with our narrator jotting down a list of “winter clothes to buy”, and before I could even picture corduroy trousers on her, she informs, “All this for him. And now for me” before we are graced with another brief list. And there’s a whole lotta more micro lists (and, also, on one occasion, an excerpt from an advice column) sandwiched between the narrator’s sad, semi-stream of consciousness narration. “You owe me at least this much, at least tell me what I’ve done wrong,” she pleads to her husband, to Moshe, the day after he unepextedly drops the “I’m cheating on you, soz bb” bomb on her.

    The rest of the piece is pretty much her wondering about how things would have been if she hadn’t been in certain places at certain times, if she had done (or not done) certain things in particular ways, about how the ‘other girl’ looks like, and what made Moshe like her, love her and whether she does the same things in bed she does for him, and about the dishes she no longer feels like doing, the second honeymoon they never went to, and a myriad of other things.

    Mr. Oz’s take on the plumped out premise of the heartbreak monologue in guise of a letter to an old friend or maybe a diary entry is surprisingly not at all boring. Rather, its unusual narration keeps the reader at the edge, eager at what the narrator muses over next in her sadness. Because she’s sad. A lot. Aren’t we all when we get swapped for something “better”? Don’t we all think of how the new post-divorce life might not totally be that bad, that there might be good sides to it too, and then don’t we try listing them out too, knowing, underneath, that no matter how many good sides there are, we’d rather want everything to be the way they always were?

    RATING: 8/10

    Blog: http://styrofoamsoup.tumblr.com/

  2. Greg September 21, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks Adrienne and CS for your takes!

    I love how we get an in-depth experience of the interminable thought process one goes through when rejected for someone else……so visceral.

    Spoiler Alert

    I think she is jealous at the end of the boy’s savvy sense of perception……am I way off?

  3. Consolation Sweater September 22, 2015 at 7:34 am

    For a minute I thought she’d make the kid ask Moshe why he left grandma.

  4. Adrienne September 22, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I don’t know if she’s jealous of his “perception”… maybe envious of his ease and innocence, not enmeshed in the situation.

    Is it me Grandma?
    I don’t know… ask him. Tell him you’ll be good (I am so angry she lays her feelings of blame on him – tries to enforce her viewpoint on him – I can have compassion the WHOLE story except here… grrrr).
    Easy enough. Already done.

    But then with the dog, in a girl’s lap – she dismisses his “perception” of the dog biting. Maybe to feel superior in front of the young woman? He shuts down. He was willing to listen to his grandmother, and she won’t listen to him?

    Yaniv is a boy with a question. He gets an answer, but even still it isn’t about him. It’s his grandparents’ thing. The dog? It’s about him – he isn’t listened to. Bracha dismisses him the way Moshe dismisses her.

  5. Greg September 22, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks CS for making me chuckle, and thank you Adrienne for digging deeper into the what and why of the ending. I think you are bang on……and I can’t wait to see what Sean says!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.