Finding the Words
When Ora’s son, Ofer, is called up for military service in order to take part in a sudden offensive, she becomes overpowered by a fear of bereavement, terrified of sounds and shapes that might be the army ‘notifiers’ coming to her door with the worst possible news. She decides to take flight. ‘She has to obey this thing that instructs her to get up and leave home, immediately, without waiting even one minute. She cannot stay here.’ When the taxi driver asks whither she wishes to go, Ora replies, ‘To where the country ends.’
David Grossman’s To the End of the Land, published in 2010, is a novel in which the protagonist runs from grief, or rather, from the prospect of grief. By contrast, his latest work of fiction, Falling Out of Time, attempts to do what François de la Rochefoucauld once claimed is unfeasible: to look at death steadily. Falling Out of Time does not run from grief – it is a direct confrontation with grief.
Over dinner, a man Grossman names the Walking Man looks up at his wife. ‘I have to go.’ ‘Where?’ she asks. ‘To him.’ ‘Where?’ ‘To him, there.’ As they begin to recover the capacity of speech, having been struck dumb by sorrow, the wife exclaims, ‘But what is there? There’s no such place. There doesn’t exist.’ ‘Maybe he’s waiting for us,’ the Walking Man says. ‘He’s not,’ she replies. ‘It’s been five years and he’s still not. He’s not.’
But the Walking Man does leave, pacing in ever-widening circles around the unnamed town in which they live, which itself seems to have fallen out of time and place. As the narrative progresses, in step with the Walking Man’s movements, he is joined in his quest by kith from the village, each of whom is carrying their own burden or loss – the Net Mender, the Midwife, the Elderly Maths Teacher, the Duke. They come to form a chorus as they walk together in pursuit of ‘there’, whatever ‘there’ might be. ‘If only we could speak to them, we thought, we’d tell them everything we did not say when they still lived.’
Soccer Is Changing. It’s Ready for Gay Stars.
When the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off June 12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, there will not be one openly gay man among the 22 players on the field. Indeed, 32 nations will participate in the monthlong soccer extravaganza and not a single one of them will have an out gay player in their squads.
Soccer’s face is heterosexual and heteronormative. A supermodel is as essential an accessory for the modern player as a supercar. The number of openly gay professional players can be counted on one hand. Those players who have come out, such as Robbie Rogers of the LA Galaxy, have attributed their periods of denial to the aggressively homophobic atmosphere in the locker room, while institutionally, little has been done to assuage the notion that soccer doesn’t care about its gay players. The 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups will take place in Russiaand Qatar, respectively, after all.
The foregoing is used to assert that soccer is one of the last bastions of unchallenged intolerance toward gay people—Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the British LGBTQ campaign group Stonewall called soccer “institutionally homophobic,” for example. Within a culture where much stock has long been put in certain conceptions of masculinity, brotherhood, and competition, the argument goes that a space cannot exist for soccer players who fail to conform to traditional gender stereotypes, that soccer fans would not embrace a gay player.
But this idea is based on an outdated understanding of soccer and the characteristics of today’s average fan. True, there are no openly gay international players right now, but it’s not the 1980s anymore—the football hooligan is dead. Over the last 20 years, soccer in Europe and the United States has largely kept up with and undergone the same processes of economic, social, and cultural change that the rest of society has experienced and enjoyed, including on matters of race, sex, and gender.