A Day at the Beach: Recollections by Geoffrey Wolff

By Geoffrey Wolff

With those interwoven autobiographical essays, Geoffrey Wolff, writer of the acclaimed The Duke of Deception, recounts the ethical (and immoral) schooling of a author, pal, husband, and father, as he bargains his lively, dependent, and deeply felt observations on a unprecedented existence: from wildly dysfunctional early life Christmases to a concupiscent profession educating literature in Istanbul; from a victory over the chaos of drink to a life-affirming quit to the majesty of the Matterhorn; and from a foundering friendship to the transcending love of family.

He stocks with us, then, the knowledge of an alert guy studying in the course of the unsettling collisions of time, position, and native customized, and during the strength of complication and possibility, to carry his many disparate selves jointly -- with superb high-stakes candor and amazing literary agility.

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I feel a strong hatred towards them. Something changed. I know we cannot defeat them. We are not powerful enough. But there was a turning point. They are already on the downturn and will ultimately be defeated by forces within their own society. They have become greedy. So much free land to seize, more of it available for the taking, and why not? Who or what will stop them? America? The Arab states? Their conscience? Morality? Condemnation? Of course not. ’ 18 JULY Today Penny and I decided to take my nephew and niece, Aziz and Tala, aged eleven and fourteen, to the Old City of Jerusalem to visit the Haram al-Sharif, the religious compound that includes the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

It was a hot day. The air was totally still and the sunlight seemed to be beaming straight down in whitehot, stifling rays. The only cool shaded place in Ramallah would be under the trees in the large garden of this lonely place that has been closed for the past twenty-eight years. I expected the main gate would in fact be locked and I would only be able to look at the garden through the picket fence. I was surprised to find it open. Maybe there had been some emergency and they had taken Aida, the proprietor, now in her late eighties, to the hospital, omitting to close the gate.

It might also have lost whatever intimidating deterrent value its threat of waging a similar war against the Palestinians might have had. Ten years ago, Israeli citizens were not forbidden by law from entering Palestinian cities in the West Bank, nor was the Gaza Strip under siege as it is now. It is much easier to impose your view of the people living behind the ghetto walls when you don’t allow your citizens to encounter them personally and see for themselves. If we go back to Palestine seventy years ago, we find a number of mixed Jewish and Arab communities, both cities and villages, which for centuries before the British Mandate were able to coexist.

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