“Frenzy” by David Grossman

HerBodyKnows“Frenzy” is one of two novellas (the other one is titled “Her Body Knows”) published together in one volume, titled HER BODY KNOWS, by David Grossman.

Shaul, the main point-of-view character in David Grosmann’s “Frenzy”, is a respectable academic, who is widely admired and gives interviews on television about such things as budget cuts to science education (17). Behind his calm exterior however, lies a stew of jealousy and torment. For Shaul believes that his wife visits her lover every day, driving her green car to see him. As he closes his eyes, he pictures what happens:

She charges ahead, the green car dances through the network of arteries that spreads from here all the way to him, and when Shaul emerges from the wave of pain, she’s already there with him. He can see them dimly, a large wide blur of warmth, solid arms, and her brisk movements as she holds on to his shoulder with one hand and bends over to pull of her shoes without unbuckling them. Her fingers stiff with longing, she touches his naked body; his clothes are already at his feet, and hers fall on top of them, and Shaul shuts his eyes and absorbs the blow embodied in this intermingling of fabric, and it hurts so much that he has to look away from the man’s clothes, because, for a moment, even the man himself is less painful than the clothes shed on top of one another. (5)

Shaul imagines his wife’s delight at visiting her lover. Her car charges ahead, it dances as it makes it way through the network of streets that separates them (emphasis added). His imagination gallops ahead of the pain he feels. She’s already with him. We are told by the author that Shaul can see them, if only dimly. But even in this dimness, he sees a great deal of detail, a blur of warmth, solid arms, her brisk movements as she holds onto his shoulder and takes her shoes off. He sees her fingers stiff with longing, his naked body, his clothes on the floor, hers falling on top. It is in these details in this lush prose full of words that divert us that Grossman is able to get away with telling the reader what happens. The details are so precise and compelling that even though the characters are not actually in a scene, the writing sweeps us along so that we almost believe that we are seeing what Shaul imagines.

gymbagTowards the end of this novella, Grossman reveals that Shaul is an unreliable narrator. His wife has not been visiting her lover in her green car, as he thinks. She’s been going swimming as she says she has. Later, when he checks her gym bag, “the towel is wet as it should be, the bathing cap is damp, there is slightly less shampoo in the tube.” (116) He checks every day, because “these minute signs and tokens are, as he well knows, his one and only proof of her guilt.”

This would be funny if it weren’t so heartbreakingly sad. Shaul is crazy, his judgement has gone to pieces in a poisonous stew of jealousy, to the extent that factual evidence that should exonerate only serves to condemn in his eyes. It is these precise details that enable us to see Shaul’s world through Shaul’s eyes even though we are constantly being told how he thinks and feels. Five Stars.

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