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The History of Love
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2013 Book Discussions > The History of Love - Bird Singer, Spoilers Allowed (June 2013)

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Thing Two (thingtwo) What in the heck is a lamed vovnik?

Literally “thirty-sixer,” lamed vovniks are thirty-six special Tzaddikim upon whom the continued
existence of the world depends. According to Jewish tradition, these thirty-six men and women humbly bear the world’s suffering and sins. This tradition also holds that these people exist in secret, unknown to
each other, or even themselves. Although the term lamed vovnik appears to include the English word
lame (disabled), it is actually the Hebrew word for thirty, with vov being the word for six. The number
thirty-six has mystical significance in the Jewish culture, because it is the product of eighteen times two, with eighteen being a number symbolically associated with life.


https://dspace.uta.edu/bitstream/hand...


Terry Pearce | 763 comments I love Bird. He has a lovely internal logic, and through the voice we get some bittersweet moments. He has such energy and embraces things but has so much that is difficult for him.

'They should keep the price the same so that people will know how much lemon-aid they have to sell if they want to get to Jerusalem' -- this line just made me want to hug him.

What Bird gets across so well is the difficulty of a child having to deal with more than a child really should. With only half a present parent, and a void in the household to fill, what is his role? Where is his space for childish things? He has had to put them away, or try go, because there is no safe space for him to play. But he is still a child.


Terry Pearce | 763 comments Try *to*


Lily | 30 comments Terry wrote: "'They should keep the price the same so that people will know how much lemon-aid they have to sell if they want to get to Jerusalem' -- this line just made me want to hug him."

I adored this line too! I liked Bird quite a bit, though I can't quite put my finger on why.. Was it his ambitions and big ideas? Was it his child-like logic? I wanted to know more about him.


Thing Two (thingtwo) Terry wrote: "I love Bird. He has a lovely internal logic, and through the voice we get some bittersweet moments. He has such energy and embraces things but has so much that is difficult for him.

'They should k..."


He very much reminds me of Oskar Schell in Extremely Loud. Actually, both children do.


Terry Pearce | 763 comments ...and now I want to read Extremely Loud even more.


Thing Two (thingtwo) Oh, you must! And be sure to read -- not audio it. Many visuals within the book you won't want to miss.


Deirdre I just realised that Nicole Krauss is married to author of Extremely Loud. Interesting that Bird is not unlike the child in that book.


Thing Two (thingtwo) Both books were published at the same time, too.


Deirdre I can see how they have influenced each other - unintentionally I'm sure. Their styles are quite similar, but I have to say I prefer this book to Extremely Loud.


Matthew | 154 comments The Hebrew is second nature to me a way that I didn't think how it could be mis-read. "Lamed vovchik" rhymes with "Tom's bed won't stick", not "tamed faun trick."

( Other numerology that would be obvious goes in the Tzvi thread.)

I loved how Bird started writing the Tetragrammaton on everything when he learned that Jews would not allowed to throw it out. Trying to protect everything he had left the only way he knows how.

The reason that many Jews right "G-d" with a Dash instead of an "O" in the middle is the same thing -- leaving out the O means you haven't written a Holy Name and can safely throw out the paper.

Which made it odd to see the Holy Name in Hebrew letters on the same page as "G-d". If you can't throw the paper out anyway, might as well write the "O"! I couldn't tell if this "mistake" was the author's or Bird's.


Melissa W (emdoubleu) | 10 comments Thing Two wrote: He very much reminds me of Oskar Schell in Extremely Loud. Actually, both children do.


Oh good, I'm not the only one! I was thinking of the parallels between the two books the entire time I was reading this. In addition to the slightly autistic-seeming young boys, we have locks, journeys around the city, very old and very young characters, dealing with the death of a parent, and more. I loved both books, but the similarities are quite striking. What was going on in the Safran-Foer/Krauss house during the writing of these? I'm so curious.


Thing Two (thingtwo) Matthew wrote: "Which made it odd to see the Holy Name in Hebrew letters on the same page as "G-d". If you can't throw the paper out anyway, might as well write the "O"! I couldn't tell if this "mistake" was the author's or Bird's. ..."

I don't have my copy of the book in front of me, and I obviously missed this. Was this on something Bird wrote - the "G-d" and the Holy Name - or just in the book itself?


Thing Two (thingtwo) emdoubleu wrote: Oh good, I'm not the only one! I was thinking of the parallels between the two books the e..."

The father dying with the grieving mother in the story's background, the Holocaust/immigration issues, losing a "forever" love ...

Maybe they both went to a writing class and got the same prompt.


Matthew | 154 comments Bird sees Mr. Goldstein burying old prayerbooks.

"Can't just throw them away," he told Bird. "Not if it has God's name. Has to be buried properly."

The next week Bird started to write the four Hebrew letters of the name no one is allowed to pronounce and no one is allowed to throw away on the pages of his homework. A few days later I opened the hamper and found it written in permanent marker on the label of his underwear. He wrote it in halk across our front door, scribbled it across his class photograph, on the bathroom wall, and before it came to an end, carved in with my Swiss Army knife as high as he could reach on the tree in front of our house."


Later on, we are reading his journal entries. They all begin.

יְהוָה

That is the four letter unpronouncable (to Jews) name of God (although other religious transliterate the letters Y-H-V-H to be pronounced either "Yahweh" or "Jehovah"). A religious Jew knows that writing יְהוָה means that that diary entry could never be thrown away. The ability to thow away and not bury is also why a religious Jew would write "G-d" (not the name of God, can be thrown away) instead of "God," which must be buried. Having already written the four Holy Letters there was no need to use the dash in G-d.

There's actually a really funny Shalom Auslander story in which his rabbi decides one day that "Shalom" is one of the names of God, and all of his homework assignements with his name on it can't be thrown away.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2271 comments emdoubleu wrote: "Thing Two wrote: He very much reminds me of Oskar Schell in Extremely Loud. Actually, both children do.


Oh good, I'm not the only one! I was thinking of the parallels between the two books the e..."


I was surprised to learn that Krauss and Foer were married. I very much enjoyed both books. There were some similar themes but I thought the style was different. I wonder why we've seen nothing else from Krauss?


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