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This is only part of Leora Wise’s illustration. To see the entire picture, go to the location

David and Leora
in Conversation

Artist Leora Wise in Conversation with David Grossman on the Framing
of His Novel
Someone to Run With

David: I wonder if you and I would have believed our ears back in eighth grade if anyone had told us we’d be here now.

Leora: We definitely wouldn’t have wanted to see ourselves looking this old…. But it’s a pretty happy occasion. I drew the illustrations for Someone to Run With and we’re meeting here for a behind-the-scenes look at the book…What was your inspiration for writing it?


David: …Well, one day, twenty years ago or more, I was outside my house in Mevasseret Zion, about to get into my car when this guy wearing a dark blue parka walked up, leading a dog by a rope. “Excuse me,” he said. “Do you know this dog?” “No,” I answered. “Never seen him before.” “Take another look,” he said. “Are you sure you’ve never seen him?” And I answered, “I’m personally acquainted with most of the dogs around here, and I assure you, this one doesn’t look familiar.” “Oh well, I’ve been walking this dog around for hours,” he sighed. “He’s lost.” My heart went out to the guy. Such compassion, and in a neighborhood like Mevasseret yet. “I think it’s great that you’re doing this,” I said. “No big deal,” he answered. “I work for the municipality and it’s part of my job to locate the owners of stray dogs. But believe me, when I find the owner, he’s going to pay one steep fine.” Hmmm, I thought to myself, this could be the driving force of a new story, a stray dog leads a character all over Jerusalem in search of its owners. A love story. I was healing at the time from the writing of my latest novel which was about a tortured relationship, but this time the love story twould run like the dog, and the person running after him would be a sixteen year old kid with a summer job at the municipality and the owner of the dog would be a girl named Tamar, and the kid and the dog would stop here and there to get information about the girl, and the dog would be a female, and the kid, Assaf I called him, would be this spaced-out Jerusalem type, but as he and the dog search for Tamar he begins to mature and by the time he finds her he’s madly in love but she has no idea who he is and thinks he stole her dog so she hits him over the head with a club, but when he comes to, she realizes that he went to a lot of  trouble to find her and got beaten up many times along the way so that her feelings for him change to love, and suddenly they have a shared mission, because she’s roamed the streets for a long time, searching for her beloved brother Shai who got involved with drugs and has been living in the street where he is constantly abused and victimized, and Tamar makes up her mind to rescue him, but in the process she falls in with the same people who ensnared her brother. Anyway, I suddenly realized that writing this book would be like chasing the dog.


Leora:  So it was thanks to the guy from the municipality that you wrote the book. But you wanted to write a light-hearted love story, and Someone to Run With is definitely not that.


David: Well, that’s what usually happens. You start writing one kind of book and it turns into another. It was a painful process. I spent weeks talking to young addicts, homeless teens living in the street or on rooftops and drug dens. 


Leora: David, I know there were mixed responses to the book but I hear it sold a million copies in Italy.

David: Yes, the book is taught in their schools. Imagine, Italian kids learning about the streets of Jerusalem and Kikar ha Hatulot, (Cat Square). The thing is, in every language the book was translated into readers found it hard to believe that heavenly Jerusalem where their religions were founded could be so filthy and violent and earthly. But Assaf and Tamar, despite all the difficulties and sordidness they encounter in the city somehow retain a kind of purity, a golden thread that leads through the muck. It’s a secret they share. That was the love story I was looking for. The two of them had to wade through the sewers to find themselves. 

Leora: You’ve said you had trouble getting the character of Tamar unto focus, at least visually.

David: Yes, I need to know my characters physically before I can imagine the concepts and ideas they have- and I couldn’t see Tamar until I walked into a computer store in my neighborhood one day and the salesman was talking to a girl who looked about Tamar’s age, wearing baggy overalls. I noticed that she had a strong jaw but there was something tender about her, she looked as though she had been forced to grow up in a hurry. And I thought – okay - there she is- that’s Tamar. 

Leora: I’ve shown you my illustrations for the book- my interpretation of your characters. How did you react to them?

David: The first time I saw Bar Belcher as Tamar in the film version of Someone to Run With I recognized Tamar, and when I looked at your drawings I thought Tamar’s face looks very much like Tamar Belcher’s face.

Leora: I never saw the film, strangely enough. But I was going to say that although the atmosphere of the book is so essentially Jerusalem, it’s set in a period when our own kids used to hang out at Kikar Ha Hatulot, for better or for worse. And yet the book is immensely popular all over Europe and elsewhere.

David: Yes. The daughter of a friend of mine was traveling through a little town in Slovakia with her boyfriend, and one evening they heard a woman calling out from her veranda, “Dinka! Dinka!” So the girl and her boyfriend were curious and asked the woman why the dog was named Dinka, and she invited them in and pointed at several of my novels on her book shelf, including Someone to Run With. I’ve received many awards and honors, you know, but a dog named Dinka after the canine character in my book – now that’s something.

00:00 / 31:15

The Hebrew interview: David and Leora

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