I switched on Bloodlands last night because I like watching James Nesbitt, though I don`t always love police dramas. To my shock, or rather not to my shock, but to my sadly lack of shock – here again was what I call that ubiquitous plot motif. Is it really a truth universally acknowledged that a central male character taking the lead in any TV series – must almost always have a dead wife? The oddest thing is that I seem to be the only person who notices the phenomenon. In real life, of course people die. Wives, husbands, partners, and at all ages. But surely, surely, other people must notice this? And that there may (ha ha) possibly be a connection between the dead wife thing, and the fact that male writers rarely write good enough parts for women of fifty plus. Still – even these days. Oh well.
So much else to think about this week. A few years back I read Jews and Words, written by Israeli writer Amos Oz and his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger. I loved this book, in which two Jewish Israeli atheists claim ownership of their identity through all the words in which both their lives have been steeped. Who even minds, Amos Oz asks – as I recall – whether all those people in the bible even existed or not? Fact is, those who wrote down the stories about them – they certainly existed. The tone of Jews and Words, co-written by father and daughter, left me with a lovely sense of `this is a best example of a loving father-daughter relationship. Gifted father, gifted daughter, lovely tone of understanding and humour between them.`
Possibly Israeli literati in the know aren`t all shocked. But I certainly am. I have been reading about the new autobiography of Galia Oz, Amos Oz`s middle daughter (I am one myself,) also a writer, writing about her abusive, violent and cruel father in her new book `Something Resembling Love.`
My two sisters and I (did I mention I am the middle sister?) are completing preparing our mother`s memoirs for publication. Betty Yoffey, nee Gillis, married to our loving father Professor Joseph Mendel Yoffey. Yes, we have enjoyed some revealing skype-chats, and yes, my childhood memories and my sisters` do not exactly conflate. And yes, I was the most unsettled of the three of us, and phrases like `middle child syndrome` do still cross my mind from time to time. Was I put in the position of being the more questioning one? The more unhappy-teenager one? The more confused one? Who knows. But one thing I know for sure. Unusual we may have considered ourselves, as a family, (which family doesn`t?) but there was a huge amount of unconditional love around, scattered freely among us all. If sometimes a wind blew that unconditional love, like leaves in a wind, so more seemed to heap up over here, or over there..it always happened that the wind would change direction, and the leaves would fall differently and all became well again.
Rightly or wrongly, I feel intensely curious, (and sympathetic) as middle child and writer myself, to read Galia Oz`s book, and understand. And on the subject of books, I am pleased that this week I should be signing a contract with a small independent publisher for my collection of short stories.