I Know Exactly What He Means

(Week-of-unrelated-quotes catch-up post, five of five.)

A conversation from three weeks ago:

Toby: I’m gonna go to the city.
Tom: What are you going to do there?
Toby: I’m gonna just work.
Tom: What kind of work?
Toby: I’m gonna climb on some work that is in a giant pile.

Nu Mettle

(Week-of-unrelated-quotes catch-up post, four of five.)

From The Finkler Question, p. 177 in the Bloomsbury paperback: Julian Treslove is the protagonist, who, at this point in the novel, although not born Jewish, feels like perhaps he is Jewish; Finkler and Libor are two old friends, both born Jewish, both men Jewish in very different ways (Finkler very British, I think, and self-loathing, and a famous philosopher; Libor much older than Treslove or Finkler, and their former teacher, and a former film critic, and very Czech). Hephzibah is Treslove’s new girlfriend, also born Jewish, and Libor’s great-great niece by marriage. Here, Treslove has recently moved in with Hephzibah, and Libor and Finkler are coming over for dinner:

When Libor arrived, Treslove truly felt outnumbered. Hephzibah exerted an unexpected influence on his two guests—she dissolved their Jewish differences.

‘Nu?’ Libor asked of Finkler.

Treslove wasn’t sure if that was the way to report it. Do you ask ‘Nu’ of? Or do you just ask, transitively? ‘Nu?’ he asked. And is it even a question in the accepted sense? ‘Nu,’ he said. Would that have been better? Nu, meaning how are things with you, but also I know how things are with you.

So much to master.

I like how the work of the writer and the thoughts of the protagonist blur there momentarily in wondering about how to attribute the quote. I like what follows, too:

But the surprise was that Finkler answered in kind. When there had been no Hephzibah he had castigated Libor for his Jewish barbarisms, but today he twinkled like a rabbi. ‘A halber emes izt a gantzer lign,’ he said.

‘A half truth is a whole lie,’ Hephzibah whispered to Treslove.

‘I know,’ he lied.

Meet the New Pleasure Dome, Same as the Old Pleasure Dome

(Week-of-unrelated-quotes catch-up post, three of five.)

From Eliot Weinberger’s critique of a show at the Met, “The World of Khubiliai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty,” which closed last month:

Yuan meant “origin”—as in “back to the origins”—and Khubilai [Khan] revived ancient Confucian court rituals and had a dynastic history written in the traditional manner to justify its heaven-endowed legitimacy. His greatest claim as a Chinese emperor was that the Yuan eventually unified the country as it had not been in centuries. The Jin Dynasty had conquered half of the Song Dynasty, but the southern portion continued on for 150 years. The Southern Song, a wealthier and more populated region, with some 50 million people, had become weak and bankrupt as—in a pattern that has become all too familiar—the rich managed to legally avoid paying taxes while military expenses greatly increased.

—Eliot Weinberger, “Xanadu in New York,” The New York Review of Books, 23 December 2010

Too Cool for Shul

(Week-of-unrelated-quotes catch-up post, two of five.)

Walking up the stairs to my office at my new job the other day, I walked past two boys talking; I couldn’t say for sure how old they were (nine, maybe ten?—I’ll understand these nuances in 2018; in the meantime, I know very well the differences between, say, 21 months and 24 months, 15 months and 12):

I mean, I will have a Bar Mitzvah. And I read Torah every once in a while. But I’m not religious.