Volume 18, Number 2 | JUNE 3 - 9, 2005

Nicole Krauss Reads Three Lives & Company
154 West 10th St.

Photo by Brian Palmer

Nicole Krauss read from her new novel, “The History of Love” at the Three Lives & Company bookstore located at Waverly and West 10th.

‘Deeply felt and genuine’

Young novelist reads from impressive new work

By Wickham Boyle

“Three Lives & Company” celebrates the releases of many books by inviting the authors into their intimate bookshop at the corner of Waverly and West 10th Street. The readings are frequent, sporadic occurrences, evenings, afternoons, weekends and are usually well attended. So when rising literary nova Nicole Krauss stood to read on a recent Sunday evening the place was packed.

Nicole Krauss is the author of two novels. The first, “Man Walks Into a Room” and the newest heralded work entitled “The History of Love.” She is also half of a literary duo being married to darling Jonathan Safran Foer author of “Everything is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” Together the two command big advances for books and have famously bought a fabulous home in Brooklyn.

To see her, she is small, incredibly small, almost chiseled as if Nicole Krauss had been whittled down from a rounder clay figure and made spare. You might not think that a powerhouse of characters and language was bustling and brimming beneath her surface. She has luminescent skin and a flawless, dazzling smile, but it wasn’t until the banter of beginning was over that I was really under the spell that Krauss’ words can cast.

The banter was part Catskill shtick, part exuberant, educated thirty-something. It began with a litany of Krauss’ fears when reading: “1: Will anyone show up; 2: Is my fly open? 3: Are there more members of my family than regular audience present? 4: Is my fly open? 5: Will I lose control of my bodily functions? 6: Is my fly open? 7: Someone will heckle me? And you can guess that 8 circles back to her fly.

Krauss then segued to an existential question regarding how many people are sufficient to read ones work? This elemental question plagues all writers, all artists who struggle in solitude and then wonder if anyone sees us. Krauss said she used to think, “Is it enough if 250 people read the work, is 500 the cut off?” Her lead character Leo Gursky who ponders much the same raison d’etre just assumes that no one reads his works.

“The History of Love” is a gorgeously written, deeply felt novel that astounds with it ability to enter many mind sets and portray each as genuine. In fact, one of the questions that leapt from the audience after the reading queried exactly that: “Excuse me but how can someone so young write with such clarity about being a very old man?” Krauss humbly responded, “ I may be an old man in a young woman’s body; by creating a person who doesn’t look like me, but he thinks like me”

Krauss declared that writing is the greatest exercise of our everyday freedom and she avows that unless things like book tours interfere, she writes everyday after walking the dog and having her coffee. According to Krauss, “ I just sit down and see what happens.”

Few would disagree that what happens is anything less than remarkable. Krauss’s open heart and easy way at connecting are echoed in her words. Many of us will find ourselves in “The History of Love”; we may find our better selves. “Unlike her husband, Rosa Litvinoff wasn’t a writer, and yet the introduction is guided along by a natural intelligence, and shadowed throughout, almost intuitively, with pauses, suggestions, ellipses, whose total effect is of a kind if half-light in which the reader can project his or her own imagination.” This description from Krauss’ book about a character, another writer, could well be used for a review of, or guide to, her own writing style.

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