The Book of My Lives

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Aleksandar Hemon's lives begin in Sarajevo, a small, blissful city where a young boy's life is consumed with street soccer with the neighborhood kids, resentment of his younger sister, and trips abroad with his engineer-cum-beekeeper father. Here, a young man's life is about poking at the pretensions of the city's elders with American music, bad poetry, and slightly better journalism. And then, his life in Chicago: watching from afar as war breaks out in Sarajevo and the city comes under siege, no way to return home; his parents and sister fleeing Sarajevo with the family dog, leaving behind all else they had ever known; and Hemon himself starting a new life, his own family, in this new city.

And yet this is not really a memoir. The Book of My Lives, Hemon's first book of nonfiction, defies convention and expectation. It is a love song to two different cities; it is a heartbreaking paean to the bonds of family; it is a stirring exhortation to go out and play soccer—and not for the exercise. It is a book driven by passions but built on fierce intelligence, devastating experience, and sharp insight. And like the best narratives, it is a book that will leave you a different reader—a different person, with a new way of looking at the world—when you've finished. For fans of Hemon's fiction, The Book of My Lives is simply indispensable; for the uninitiated, it is the perfect introduction to one of the great writers of our time.A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

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About the author

Aleksandar Hemon is the author of The Question of Bruno, Nowhere Man, The Lazarus Project, and Love and Obstacles. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation, the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, the PEN/W. G. Sebald Award, and, most recently, a 2012 USA Fellowship. He lives in Chicago.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Mar 19, 2013
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780374708887
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Brilliantly compiled and edited, and filled with detail and anecdote, Daily Rituals is irresistible, addictive, and magically inspiring--the perfect graduation gift.

Franz Kafka, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912, “time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”
 
Kafka is one of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations”. . . Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day . . . Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.”

Here are: Anthony Trollope, who demanded of himself that each morning he write three thousand words (250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for thirty-three years during the writing of more than two dozen books . . . Karl Marx . . . Woody Allen . . . Agatha Christie . . . George Balanchine, who did most of his work while ironing . . . Leo Tolstoy . . . Charles Dickens . . . Pablo Picasso . . . George Gershwin, who, said his brother Ira, worked for twelve hours a day from late morning to midnight, composing at the piano in pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers . . .

Here also are the daily rituals of Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, John Updike, Twyla Tharp, Benjamin Franklin, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Anne Rice, and Igor Stravinsky (he was never able to compose unless he was sure no one could hear him and, when blocked, stood on his head to “clear the brain”).
The City of Abraham is a journey through one of the world’s most divided cities – Hebron, the only place in the West Bank where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side. It begins with a hill called Tel Rumeida, the site of ancient Hebron, where the patriarch Abraham – father of the Jews and the Arabs – was supposed to have lived when he arrived in the Promised Land. Through a mixture of travel writing, reportage and interviews, Platt tells the history of the hill and the city in which it stands, and explores the mythic roots of the struggle to control the land.

He meets the Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida, and the messianic settlers who have made their homes in a block of flats that stands on stilts on an excavated corner of the site. He meets the archaeologists who have attempted to reconstruct the history of the hill. He meets the soldiers who serve in Hebron, and the intermediaries who try to keep the peace in the divided city. The City of Abraham explores the ways in which Hebron’s past continues to inform its tumultuous present, and illuminates the lives of the people at the heart of the most intractable conflict in the world.

The City of Abraham is a journey through one of the world’s most divided cities – Hebron, the only place in the West Bank where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side.

It begins with a hill called Tel Rumeida, the site of ancient Hebron, where the patriarch Abraham – father of the Jews and the Arabs – was supposed to have lived when he arrived in the Promised Land. Platt tells the history of the hill and the city in which it stands, shares the stories of residents and settlers, and illuminates the mythic roots of the struggle to control the land.

Through a mixture of travel writing, reportage and interviews, The City of Abraham explores the ways in which Hebron’s past continues to inform its tumultuous present.

The seriously, seriously funny roller-coaster ride of sex and violence that Aleksandar Hemon has long promised

Script idea #142: Aliens undercover as cabbies abduct the fiancée of the main character, who has to find a way to a remote planet to save her. Title: Love Trek.

Script idea #185: Teenager discovers his girlfriend's beloved grandfather was a guard in a Nazi death camp. The boy's grandparents are survivors, but he's tantalizingly close to achieving deflowerment, so when a Nazi hunter arrives in town in pursuit of Grandpa, he has to distract him long enough to get laid. A riotous Holocaust comedy. Title: The Righteous Love.

Script idea #196: Rock star high out of his mind freaks out during a show, runs offstage, and is lost in streets crowded with his hallucinations. The teenage fan who finds him keeps the rock star for himself for the night. Mishaps and adventures follow. This one could be a musical: Singin' in the Brain.

Josh Levin is an aspiring screenwriter teaching ESL classes in Chicago. His laptop is full of ideas, but the only one to really take root is Zombie Wars. When Josh comes home to discover his landlord, an unhinged army vet, rifling through his dirty laundry, he decides to move in with his girlfriend, Kimmy. It's domestic bliss for a moment, but Josh becomes entangled with a student, a Bosnian woman named Ana, whose husband is jealous and violent. Disaster ensues, and as Josh's choices move from silly to profoundly absurd, The Making of Zombie Wars takes on real consequence.
"The genius of Aleksandar Hemon's prose is a well-established, universally acknowledged fact. But his ability to read a soccer match—to really, deeply understand it—will strike readers with the force of pure, ecstatic revelation. His essays on the game are the very definition of pleasure." —Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World
"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." —Bill Shankly, legendary Liverpool F.C. manager

As the world's eyes turn to Brazil for the kickoff of the 2014 World Cup, Aleksandar Hemon reminds us of a sad fact: "an average life seldom contains more than twenty World Cups—our games are tragically numbered." We need to pay attention, to absorb the joy, the skill, the agony, the triumph, the beauty—everything that soccer is. And soccer is, of course, everything.
In these pages, Hemon revisits memories of his first World Cup (1974), for which his then homeland, Yugoslavia, qualified in dramatic fashion—only to quickly lose their way out of the tournament. He takes us through the World Cups of the eighties, nineties, up through South Africa in 2010—and to the brink of the 2014 World Cup, which is a special one for Hemon: the first time in the country's history that Bosnia and Herzegovina has qualified.
Played out on the world stage—both in the World Cup and in soccer's international professional leagues—soccer is a high-stakes enterprise full of extreme passion, extreme talent, extreme money, and often extreme politics. But Hemon is also quick to point out that a game of soccer requires only a reasonably flat surface, a sufficiently round object, and someone to show up, and he regales us with stories of the heated games of his youth in Sarajevo's gravel courtyards, of the frozen pick-up games of his adulthood in Chicago, and now, of his daughter's slightly less intense soccer practices, replete with cones and shin guards.

Hemon has been celebrated far and wide for his fiction and essays, but here he takes on what is truly his lifelong, animating passion: soccer. It's more than a sport, it's certainly not "exercise," and it's not even enough to say soccer is life (as Shankly pointed out). Soccer is, in fact, the beautiful game—and never more so than in these pages. Even if, despite all of America's best efforts, Hemon still occasionally insists on calling it "football."

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