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A Busy March

March had been a month of travel. I spent a week in Hong Kong and another in Texas/Oklahoma. Thanks to planning in advance and my very fastidious nature (almost to a fault) I was rewarded with some very good reading on the go. A few books I had picked up in Hong Kong and Dallas. Between leisure and work travel I am happy to finish with 8 books this month. A highlight is that I played safe reading authors I have read before and enjoyed this month.

8 books, 2318 pages, 75 pages a day

Disturbing the Peace Richard Yates

The weakest Yates for me although writing is contemplative as usual. This is a perfect example that I appreciate the writing much more than the story. That said, Yates is keen on the irony of life. John Wilder wants to to find himself and creates some order in his life in the chaos. The orderly life that he risks of ruining does not give him satisfaction but pain. A long story short, it’s a man going crazy.

The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes
My first Julian Barnes book makes me an instant fan. I picked this one up in Hong Kong because I was thrilled that the UK edition—a trade paperback—was available. Short but definitely not slight, this novel is a poignant portrait of the costs and benefits of time passing, of friendship and love, in particular love, how it validates and vindicates life. The unreliable narrator, safe in his comfort and guard, is a mystery to himself. It fondly reminds me of The Remains of the Day.

The Longest Journey E.M. Forster
In this novel, Forster, most stylistically daring ever, wields together words with such eloquence and wit. But the clarity of the story is never compromised. The narrative voice and Rickie’s voice are almost interchangeable, except that Rickie can only reflect and acquiesce on how he was better off to be left alone in his idealism. I acknowledge its importance because it sets all the key themes that prevailed in his future works.

The Easter Parade Richard Yates
This book rescued many a gloomy and misty days in Hong Kong; it also rescues Yates’ credential after the somewhat stagnant, underwhelming Disturbing the Peace. is quiet novel. Like almost every Yates story, this is on one level a tragedy, but the journey of his characters is illuminating. The quality and exquisiteness of his writing is noteworthy, owing to the fact that he keeps a distance from his characters. Yates has a knack for the effortlessness with which he encapsulates life, an he allows life to unravel at its own course. This quietness of style best illuminates time’s difference, since over half the sisters’ lives are packed into the thin volume.

Flappers and Philosophers F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gifted to me by a friend in Hong Kong, this stellar collection of short stories that form the backbone of Fitzgerald’s novels has fit into my busy social agenda in Hong Kong. I often read a story or two between engagements, and read some more just before bedtime. The stories often amplify the novels and playing out variations of characteristic motifs. Permeated in these tales is a sense of loss and regret.

Wish You Were Here Stewart O’Nan
I am totally in love with O’Nan. He has a keen eye for humanity and family dynamics. As the family comes to grapple with their loss, they also come to terms with a gamut of emotions and tension. Wish You Were Here is a close portraiture of a family told through an elergy of a lost father, a lost past and lost dreams. It’s a testimony of motherly love, how inevitably parents is given to the worries of their children.

The History of Love Nicole Krauss
This book is a saving grace for Nicole Krauss, at least to me. I didn’t enjoy her latest, The Great House. It takes a while to get a footing on the multiple back stories of The History of Love that would weave so seamlessly at the end. Alma’s research on the book that her mother so passionately translates, the mystery of the book’s authorship, Leopold’s effort to recover the manuscript so his son could read it—how the stories unfold is like digging from two ends of a tunnel, not knowing where and how they would intersect.

Emily, Alone Stewart O’Nan
This is supposed to be the sequel to Wish You Were Here. I just finished the book and have yet to write the review. Another winner from O’Nan—a majestically quiet, contemplative book about getting on life that offers hidden strength and possibilities.

Despite the low page read/day average, this month offers some of the best reading. The quality certainly surpasses quantity.

5 Responses

  1. Interestingly, The Sense of an Ending reminded me of Remains of The day too, i am going to write a review on it this April…

  2. All good books you read Matt. Always amaze that you kept to good books and not let any trash gets in your way.

  3. I’ve got some catching up to do! Amazing feat!

  4. I think you picked wonderful writers and just being a new fan of O’Nan’s I’m happy to read how much you loved his books!!

  5. Sounds like you had a wonderful March and with travels and work you did quite well!

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