Monthly Archives: November 2011

Julian Barnes’ “The Sense of an Ending” Exacts Emotional Price Worth Paying

Cover ImageAuthor Julian Barnes is no stranger to award-winning works. His past literary distinctions include the Somerset Maugham Award, The E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize among others. Now Barnes must make room on the shelf for his latest honor: the much-coveted Booker Prize for Fiction.

Barnes has been a contender for the “posh bingo” prize before with his titles Arthur and George (2005), England, England (1998) and Flaubert’s Parrot (1984), but it is his 2011 release, The Sense of an Ending, that has made the fourth time a charm.

The Sense of an Ending is quick yet complex and holds that deep, dark-paneled feel of a classic. Barnes manipulates the lens of time through the eyes of middle-aged Tony Webster as he picks through the shifting shards of his memory. A contemplation on singular existence, The Sense of an Ending is a beautiful depiction of age, regret, friendship and the fluctuant perspective of life.

To read or not to read?

The Sense of an Ending is a gorgeous work, but it is troubling. The highbrow, jovial banter of adolescent dialogue early in the book painfully gives way to thoughts and realities of adult self-inquisition and consideration of a life well led.

The Sense of an Ending demands a certain reader-boldness willing to identify with Tony as he looks back with surprise on the shadowed actions of his life and the ease with which we slip into human complacency. That said, The Sense of an Ending is an exquisite page-turner – not for the faint of heart and not to be missed.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

 Related Links

PBS: A Conversation with Julian Barnes

Guardian: Booker Prize 2011: Julian Barnes Triumphs at Last

-New York Times (potential spoilers) Julian Barnes and the Emotions of Englishmen

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A Little ‘Silence’ Please

NLR will be temporarily quiet due to pending assignments. 

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Wrap Yourself in Winter with ‘The Windward Shore’

Cover ImageSlowing things down in our furiously paced society is a discipline or luxury few of us can afford. Technology, economy, and mere 21st century self-preservation have together constructed a high-speed connection to a life that leaves many of us sapped and stopping to smell only the virtual roses.

If winter, which was once respected as a period of rest and quiescence, has become a bang-out battle to avoid the flu and maximize those dwindling daylight hours, then perhaps you should meet Michigan author Jerry Dennis.

Dennis has made the very ebb and flow of the Great Lakes define his life’s direction. Well known for his literary works on nature, science, outdoor sports, Michigan’s lakes, and this entire Bountiful World, Dennis has become the collective voice of integrity when considering our magnificent waterways.

His latest book, The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes, is a timely work as we silently slip from the hands of autumn into those of winter. The Windward Shore covers a season of winter solitude along Michigan’s shores in which Dennis lived in homes both posh and crude, taking in and reflecting upon our ever-evolving relationship with nature.

Dennis is a deep thinker, but he’s an accessible writer who won’t leave you behind. He takes the time to examine and brief us on our current eco-condition, and rewards with passages of introspection and great beauty.

“Wild nature is crucial to our well-being. It is our universal reservoir of hope. It is the raw material for our daydreams and night dreams. It sustains us even when our other hopes languish – hope in technology, for instance, or effective government, or wise leaders. An afterlife is the hope for many, of course, but for now, for life on earth, the only life we know, we turn to the remaining unspoiled deserts, forests, mountains, and seas, even if only in imagination and art, for relief from the turmoil of everyday life.”

Despite its depth, Dennis strikes an easy balance and offers plenty of humor as he grapples with his own bouts of boredom and unsettling ennui that so often hit us during winter’s thick-armed stretch. While some environmentalists push and preach, Dennis is a realist who doesn’t sound-off or claim to rise above. Instead, he defers to his subject matter – nature – with nothing less than sheer awe and appreciation of her power and unrelenting splendor.

The Windward Shore is a provoking work meant to accompany slow, steaming cups of coffee rather than an extra hot grande-on-the-go. It’s not  a wild page-turner that blows through to the end, but a work seasoned to mull over, enjoy, and consider long after you close the cover. “Let this be a celebration, then, and a grieving,” writes Dennis of The Windward Shore. “Both a love song and a lament. A tribute to what was and a plea for what remains.”

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

Jerry Dennis podcast discussion of his book, The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas

University of Michigan Press

Prior NLR Post on Living the Great Lakes

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Filed under Authors, Book Reviews, Jerry Dennis, The Windward Shore

Childress Turns Up Southern Heat and Humor in “Georgia Bottoms”

Cover ImageLooking for scandal and a splash of sass? Then you must meet Ms. Georgia Bottoms of Six Points, Alabama. Mark Childress, author of One Mississippi and Crazy in Alabama, turns up that sultry southern heat in his latest novel featuring one larger-than-life heroine in one tiny, mixed-up town.

Having fallen a touch on hard times, Georgia Bottoms has turned to the business of “entertaining” gentlemen to keep up appearances and hold her rather unorthodox family together. Scheduling an elaborate six-night rotation with the high and mighty men of Six Points, Ms. Bottoms is a sexual whirlwind with a straighten-your-skirts practicality.

Childress does a fantastic job of playing up the eccentricities of the southern women he loves so much. Georgia is a laugh-riot as she attempts to keep her hair coiffed and her outrageous secrets in check.

“For some reason I really enjoy exploring southern women; they are the most fascinating creatures on earth,” shared Childress on NPR’s Weekend Edition. “Southern women are different than everybody else… and I love to explore that mind.”

Smart and downright hilarious, Georgia Bottoms is a great call for a quick, witty read. If you’re feeling a bit stressed or overwhelmed, slip off your heels, paint your toes, pour yourself a chilled glass of lemonade and head on down to Six Points.

* Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

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Filed under Authors, Book Reviews, Georgia Bottoms, Mark Childress