January 13, Tuesday night -- Reading Alan Kaufman

At Books and Bookshelves, near Duboce Triangle, a beautiful place that smells like fresh sawdust and, when you're there at a reading, you know exactly how much your chair is worth (I think mine was $119). But, not only can you buy books and furniture, you can also purchase paintings by Alan Kaufman, who, along with Clara Hsu, was a featured reader of the evening. The story is that Alan and his girlfriend (not Clara) were broke and were selling artwork on the street and the owner of Books and Bookshelves came by and bought $500 worth of art, and some of it is still on display.
Alan Kaufman read from three of his acclaimed books--Who Are We?, Jew Boy, and Matches, about which David Eggers said, "there is more passion here than you see in twenty other books..."

Watching him read I could here the passion. It was there with the sawdust. He read about the Israeli army, where he's been a soldier; he read about traveling across the country on the Greyhound bus; and he read about his mother. I closed my eyes and thought, here is this tattooed and tough guy in front of us -- it doesn't matter what he looks like. He could be in any body. He is a writer and he is a vehicle for these passions. Someone has to say these things.

I felt the same way about Clara, who read about her own heart surgery at the age of thirteen, which was especially poignant because, right now, her adult son is at her home, recovering from heart surgery. I felt the same emotions she read about -- how bare we are in front of medicine. And, she read about traveling to Morocco and defending a Moroccan friend, who the police were harassing because he didn't have a guiding permit and he was with tourists. When she tried to intervene she was told to stay out of it, but she persevered. "It's not Moroccan and Moroccan, she said, it's Human and Human."