Thursday, March 8, 2012

Great Fiction: Julian Barnes, Tim Parks, Ann Patchett

I read two great works of fiction in the past ten days. I just finished the last page of the second novel and have this exhilarating feeling of wonderment. This is what it feels like to be transported into new worlds that are completely unrelated to my own reality.

I have been so busy with my weekly column and running a household that I can't remember the last time I read adult fiction. Both books had been sitting on my bedside table for months. At 10:00 p.m. one night last week, with my husband out of town on a business trip, I wanted to do a little reading before bed. I decided to tackle The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes first because of its brevity. Barnes's descriptions were so choice that I started jotting down phrases that I liked. I eventually had to give up because I was spending too much time putting down the book in order to take notes. I understood that enough was enough, and I enjoyed the book without further interruption. The prose and plot were so captivating that I ended up staying up very late to finish the book in one sitting.

Barnes has the spellbinding ability to articulate the sentiments of every person who has ever contemplated life and death and/or reflected on his own mortality. The way Barnes's Tony Webster muddled through life without much self-knowledge and with a large dose of self-delusion and inanity reminded me of the protagonist in Tim Parks's Casa Massimina, one of my favorite books.

The book I just finished moments ago is State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I had read about 100 pages when I first bought the book half a year ago, but decided to start all over again because of its detailed plot. What attracted me to purchase this book in the first place was that the story had nothing whatsoever to do with my own life. The protagonist is an unmarried half-Indian half-Minnesotan scientist and most of the story takes place in the Amazon. Patchett is a good storyteller and I can visualize a Hollywood movie. I really felt that she was taking her sweet time with the descriptions and the story could have been edited down, but this may be because I had just finished a succinct short story. As a result, I became a little impatient with the extensive depictions of Brazil and the Amazon, and didn't become spellbound until the last few chapters. A great yarn.

1 comment:

  1. My app is not working so I cannot display the cover of these two books. Apologies.