Jerusalem—August, 1995

The orange soda was too gassy for Joel to gulp. He’d wanted orange juice but had made the mistake of letting his grandfather order for him. His grandmother had made the same mistake, and now the waitress brought out coffee in tiny ceramic cups. His grandfather took one sip, said, “Awful,” and pushed the entire saucer away.

Is it true that you share something with Kafka?

That’s right. I was born on the old man’s ninetieth birthday.


And you think that makes you special?

Absolutely. I’m unreasonably proud of the fact. And I feel that it gives me full license to go around quoting his famous line about a book being “the axe that breaks up the frozen sea within us.”