Wednesday, December 03, 2008

60's perspectives

Not the 1960's, but becoming 60. Two 60'ish British authors writings on this found my armchair recently. I first read Julian Barnes' "Nothing to be Frightened of" two weeks ago. Written earlier this year it is an undisguised set of musings on death, aging, and the possibilities that one could dwell upon. The style is fluid, conversational, and has no shortage of humor, but after a compelling first half the book itself dies a slow death as it meanders toward its non-conclusion. Better on this subject, but not transparently so, is Martin Amis's 2006 novel "House of Meetings"which I read yesterday afternoon and night, really a couldn't put it down combination of Russian history, intertwined families, and an old man's memoirs and observations before death. Most reviews focus on the story of the gulags, the post WWII period in Russia and the lives of two brothers. The singularity of Russian culture is put into a bleak historical context. What is not discussed is the search for meaning by the lead characters up until the end. That story is woven throughout as the old man writes his tale to his early 20's stepdaughter in America. One review that I found suggested that this was done clumsily and detracted from the book. On the contrary, I think it's brilliant.


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