Nell Zink And The Man Who Called Her On The Phone

The words “master class” suggest a teacher/ student relationship. We usually use that term to refer to a special event when a well-known artist comes to town and gives short individual lessons to students who were chosen ahead of time for this occasion.

Master classes are given in many disciplines of art, and I was delighted to read that the American author Nell Zink (The Wallcreeper, Mislaid) was in Jerusalem and was giving a master class on eavesdropping in Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

I called ahead and asked whether the participants were expected to bring  a text to the class. But  it transpired that it wasn’t that kind of a master class, the author was just giving a talk. Nell Zink used to live in Israel and is a close friend of the writer Avner Shatz, she wrote to him and about him, and he translated her work into Hebrew.

When we gathered, about 12 people, in the small room in Mishkenot,  Ms. Zink went into a tirade about a man who dared calling her, on the hotel phone, earlier that day and asked her to read his book. I was embarrassed and felt guilty, even though I didn’t call or send her any manuscript. When that gentleman entered the room, few minutes later, she went on and on. The poor man must have mistakenly assumed  that a master class meant  “a class taught by someone who has an expert knowledge or skill in a particular area” and that the author/instructor would be willing to read his work and give her opinion.

Nell Zink told us that her writing career started very late in life (she was older than 50 when she was first published), but she must have forgotten how it felt. She was very pleased with herself  and wanted to brag and not to instruct. Moreover, she kept saying how almost all contemporary literature was unworthy. When I asked her a question and brought up the name of another woman author as an illustration, she dismissed me by saying that she had no idea who that writer was.

The topic of the talk  in Hebrew was  “the walls have ears” or in English eavesdropping. I was certain that Zink would discuss the importance of curiosity in literature, and would explore the way writers get their material: by listening to conversations etc. But it was obvious that she wasn't interested in other people or curious to hear them. Thus she spent the hour talking about herself.

Over a year ago I attended an inspiring gallery talk at Yale by the renowned filmmaker Mike Leigh about his latest film Mr. Turner. One of the more memorable things that he said was “The audience is a collection of people who are at least as intelligent as me.”

Mike Leigh was kind to the people in the audience. Unlike Nell Zink who had her big break only recently, he has been around for a long time. I wish she could hear him to learn a few things about humility and respect, but perhaps she doesn’t even know who he is.

The essay first appeared in the Times Of Israel


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Keith DuWayne Glasco, Sr. (Aug. 8, 1937 to Feb.16, 2017)

On a beautiful rural hillside caressed by balmy warm weather, we said goodbye to the body of Gerald's youngest brother after his long fight with heart problems. We knew Keith was in a better place and no longer in that beautiful wood coffin as we listened to the final words of his pastor. Barbara's parents and others of Keith's family were already buried in this rural cemetery not far from Keith and Barbara's home where the long funeral procession had stopped briefly for Keith's dog Hash to join us for this final farewell.

Our great niece Jennifer Jade Escue from Kansas City hurried to our car and joined Gerald helping me tranverse the upward climb on the soft thawed groud to the tent waiting over the grave site. Before we left, all were invited to go on to the church fellowship hall a hill or so away. Amid the visiting, some were taking a rose from flower arrangements to remember Keith with. Keith had been honored in every way his many friends and family could accomplish.

From Thursday morning when Gerald along with others of Keith's family saw Keith peacefully breathe his last breaths shortly after his pastor had visited and offered what turned out to be a final prayer with him, everyone wanted to remember all the good things Keith and Barbara had done for others.

Our granddaughter Leslie was already up in northern Illinois for the high school state speech contest on Saturday that her sister Cecelie was in, so Les had planned to stop at the farm on way home to Nashville. Now our daughter Jeannie and husband Rick also came down to grieve with us. It was good to be able to worship with them on Sunday morning. Although a previous appointment made it impossible for Leslie to stay over for the funeral, she did delay her drive back to Tennnessee until after the visitation for Keith.  There she was not only able to see our daughter Mary Ellen and husband Brian but her cousins Trent and Brianna as well as more distant cousins--some of whom she had never met.

Sunday evening we gathered at the funeral home on the Jonesboro Square, where in the past we have said goodbye to so many family members and friends.The line of grievers soon reached the bank next door, and the people kept coming until time to go home. While some had arrived from a distance, most were neighbors and local friends. Barbara and her sons and their spouses and the grandchildren and great grandchildren were hugged over and over as they listened to the expressed grief and affection. Sometimes tears came down the cheeks of those already missing their friend, and sometimes laughs and smiles were shared.

The next morning we gathered there again for a funeral service that was joyful and reassuring as we bid farewell to the dear one peacefully lying there with his hands holding one of his late brother Kenny's pocket knives and also a little metal angel a great grandson wanted Grampy to have. The pall bearers had been asked to wear jeans with black shirts, and the word had gotten around so those garments were seen throughout the congregation as well. I was silently thanking God that our son Gerry had arrived safely at 4:30 that morning after driving all night. His cousin DuWayne had tried to dissuade him from making that hurried trip, so I did not bother. I did try to not take away any of the very brief rest time he had at our house, but I was glad to visit with him a bit at that bountiful feast the church provided in the large fellowship hall packed with people. Soon Gerry would start the trip back to Texas to be at batting practice the next day, and we took Jeannie and Rick to their car to start their long trip upstate.


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I don’t know how my mother came to choose the little blue house at 7 Bowie Court. But in choosing it, she changed her life, and the lives of her children.

From 1957 to 1967, we lived in that house. The Copelands were next door at 5 Bowie Court. And unlike the other houses in the court, our front doors faced each other. That access and proximity facilitated a friendship between my mother and Mrs. Copeland that lasted almost 60 years, a relationship that continued and even grew in closeness after we moved across town. As I grew up, and after, they taught me what friendship meant.

Somehow, despite (or because of?) raising seven boys between them, they seemed constant companions. This included 20 plus years or so swimming in the mornings at the Rockville Pool and 35 years of Meals in Wheels (my Mom driving, Mrs. Copeland delivering).

My mother (on the left in the photo) loved to drive and Mrs. Copeland loved to explore, and they took countless trips together, usually just afternoon drives out into the country (there was country then) or up to Westminster for tea. One very special trip they both talked about for years after: down to Asheville North Carolina and over the mountains to Gatlinburg Tennessee. It was one of the things that my mother remembered longest.

Mrs. Copeland (I never could call her Ann) loved music and the arts, and had a fine soprano voice. She would frequently accompany my parents to my performances in Annapolis or elsewhere, and was well known to my performing friends. She had a discerning ear, but was effusive with her praise. When I turned to writing, she was just as supportive. And with her generous heart and love of arts and beauty, she was a continuing inspiration.

After Mom died, Mrs. Copeland would continue to call us, always apologizing for not calling sooner, asking how we were, deflecting our questions about her health, encouraging me to write, and always with the spirit and warmth and humor we had known all our lives. We have now lost a cherished presence, and a link to our past. But for me, the memory and lessons of their friendship will not fade before I do.

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One Day You Will Be "Radical"

Yesterday someone posted on Facebook a photo with a quote by Gloria Steinem: “Women grow radical with age. One day an army of gray-haired women may quietly take over the earth.” Reading it I suddenly realized that when it comes to gray hair a rose is never just a rose, and perhaps my choice of not dying my hair has subversive undertones.

For as long as I can remember my mother had beautiful gray hair, she kept it short and let it dry in the sun. For a nurse, it was a practical, no-nonsense hair style, and it suited her personality. In my eyes my mother’s gray hair was a symbol of her wisdom and knowledge.

I was convinced that one day I would look just like her, but when my daughter detected some gray in my hair she asked me to dye it. I refused, but she argued that I was too young to be old.  I told myself that it was important to make my daughter proud and postponed my plan to grow old gracefully.

But, from experience, trying to please our loved ones hardly ever works. I knew the truth behind my gray roots, and resented the effort of hiding it from the rest of the world. Whenever I saw gray haired women I found myself complimenting them on their hair, and explaining why mine was dark. Of course I sounded insincere and silly.

Perhaps a psychologist could have called my predicament a cognitive dissonance, but it simply translates to not being true to myself. So one day I stopped dying my hair. My daughter was displeased at first, but pretty soon she wrote to tell me that gray hair has made a comeback. I like to think it was her way of saying that she accepted my choice.

Back to Gloria Steinem’s quote: hair color is  a matter of personal choice, but I agree that  women grow radical with age. Since young women face enough challenges juggling family and career and most of them have no spare time for activism, it is up to us, their mothers, to come to the rescue again and do it for them.

I noticed that many young women attended the different protest marches on January 21st. They made a special effort and came to show their discontent. However, usually it is the older women who dedicate their life to the cause and become active in different social and political movements.

In Women Wage Peace, for example, the age range of most of its hard core activists is from late 40s to late 60s. While in many other aspects of life women that age start to become less relevant, here they can shine and make a real difference. Many of us are willing to dedicate all our time and effort to promote peace in our region, and I believe that we have the wisdom,knowledge and determination to bring a change.

Young women have something to look forward to, Gloria Steinem makes growing older seem almost fun. Hopefully it won't take long before they join us in taking over the earth and making it a better place.

The essay first appeared in the Times Of Israel

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Latest Comments

Orna Raz Nell Zink And The Man Who Called Her On The Phone
25 February 2017
Thank you for writing dear Katia. it is surprising how famous she has becomehttp://www.publisherswee...
Orna Raz Nell Zink And The Man Who Called Her On The Phone
25 February 2017
I agree dear Rosy, it was very sad. Thank you for writing and for your support.
Stephen Evans Friends
24 February 2017
Yes, so lucky to have them both in my life.
Stephen Evans Friends
24 February 2017
They were quite a pair
Katherine Gregor Friends
24 February 2017
What a wonderful gift this experience gave you. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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