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Rob Neufeld commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Edwin, some are touched by the Holy Spirit, and find voice to our amazement.  Yet there are many who are not heard, no matter how much we'd like to hear.  How will you amaze? "
10 hours ago
Edwin Ammons commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Do none consider that a greater power has designed all this and that all these recent discoveries are a tiny part of it? von Humboldt will not rise from the dust until I do and I am still upright so he must wait. Upon that eventful day it will be…"
18 hours ago
Joe Epley posted a blog post

Military Writers Society of America

Joe Epley recently was elected to Board of Directors of the Military Writers Society of America.  The MWSA has around 700 members around the country. Details on the website: http://www.mwsadispatches.com.  ; The organization's purpose is to help military service members, veterans, their families, supporters of the military,and historians record history and the complexities of military life--and encourage writing as therapy. The…See More
yesterday
susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
Saturday
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
Saturday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 5 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
Saturday
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Apr 25
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Apr 25
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 23
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest Apr 22-23

The 8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest brings authors to Flat Rock There are a few oases where writers congregate to share wares and wisdom, and Apr. 22-23, the place is Blue Ridge Community College, featuring 19 readings and workshops, and many more opportunities for conversations with authors at exhibition tables.  See full schedule at…See More
Apr 20
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Asheville- The Way I Remember It- Hester

I have posted a new blog about a man I knew growing up in Asheville. It is entitled " Hester." Anna says guys will like it better than women. It's pretty long, but enjoy it.HESTERGrowing up in Asheville in N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “ My dad was…See More
Apr 19
Frank Thompson posted an event
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Frank Thompson at Yancey History Association

April 19, 2016 at 6pm to April 19, 2017 at 7pm
There is a permanent exhibit at the Yancy History Association in Burnsville devoted to the film "Then I'll Come Back to You" (1916) which was produced in nearby Pensacola. It's a small exhibit but well curated and filled with great photographs and other memorabilia of this century-old film.See More
Apr 19
Sharon Freeman Pace replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Jerry Steinberg--Asheville history, contrarian views, new book
"In the 60's, early 70's, one of my uncles on my mothers side worked as a groundskeeper for Mr. Sternberg. I remember our driving up to the "castle" and my sister asking my aunt where the moat was.I also remember touching the…"
Apr 19
nancy dillingham replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems
"A wonderful discussion on craft, Rob!"
Apr 17
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems

Something unseen stirs the words in Ron Rash poemsby Rob Neufeld             Ron Rash, award-winning novelist and short story writer, is also an acclaimed and accomplished poet.  His new book, “Poems: New and Selected” (HarperCollins) draws from six volumes and adds eight new poems.  He comes to Malaprop’s…See More
Apr 15

Great novel plays with a man’s conscience and memory

by Rob  Neufeld

 

            The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is a different kind of mystery—not the whodunit variety, which has no real sense of closure, except in a legal sense; or in the relief of having a threat extinguished.

            The mystery in this novel has to do with a caring, self-centered person’s need to resolve, forty years after the fact, his part in a relationship with a puzzling girlfriend and a friend’s suicide.

            “You just don’t get it, do you?” Veronica, the girlfriend, tells the narrator, Tony Webster, on several occasions.

            The Sense of the Ending, is the subject of Book Discussion X at Accent on Books, 7 p.m., Thurs., Mar. 14.

 

Great storytelling

 

            Barnes’ novel has comedy, great dialogue, plot surprises, and anecdotes—but, right from the start, it’s Tony’s philosophical seriousness that does the main carrying job.

            The first paragraph is in some ways not typical of the book.  “I remember in no particular order,” the narrator prefaces, launching into a list of six seemingly unrelated images, including one graphic one.

            He then talks about the way time has nothing to with a clock, and he eases into his school days at an English private school.  Tony and his sardonic pals were fake smart, and wanted to lead lives like the ones in great literature.  Enter, Adrian, un-flippant and brilliant, and a magnet of interest like Sophie to Stingo in William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice.

            When Old Joe Hunt, history teacher, asks his class, “What is history?”, Adrian responds, it is “the certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.” 

            “Would you care to give an example?” the teacher says.

            “Robson’s suicide, sir.” The school had just received news about a student whom the boys barely knew, and Adrian wanted to show that even events not obscured by centuries were beyond mysterious.  

 

Memories float up

 

            On page 31, one of the random impressions noted in the novel’s first paragraph—“steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it”—comes to the surface and fleshes out.

            Tony has graduated from secondary school and found his first serious girlfriend, Veronica.  Veronica is enigmatic, manipulative, or troubled—it’s hard to tell.  Tony visits her family for the first time, and finds them snobbishly mocking, except for Veronica’s mother, Mrs. Ford.

            One morning, after Veronica, her father, and her brother take off on an outing, letting Tony sleep in, he is treated to breakfast by Mrs. Ford, whom the brother refers to as “the mother.”  Tony notices a couple of seemingly insignificant gestures—including her tossing of the frying pan.  Mrs. Ford says—memorably, as it turns out—“Don’t let Veronica get away with too much.” 

            As a reader, I get great pleasure from the surfacing of previously unexplained references.  We know more will follow.  And it has so much to do with the big story.  Isn’t it odd, we think, how a tiny moment in our past can attain much bigger dramatic status than big events?

            Tony and Veronica break up, and she, he learns in a letter, hooks up with Adrian.  He writes Adrian a letter, advising him “to be prudent, because in my opinion Veronica has suffered damage a long way back.”

            Later on in the novel, he—and we—get another account of that warning letter, and it is a shock.  Memory is selective, it seems. For  the moment, Tony goes into a meditation about the damage that “we all suffer.”

            He’s groping. 

            One more revelation.  It’s something of a spoiler, but the book’s flyleaf also gives it away.  Adrian commits suicide, and Tony inherits from Mrs. Ford 500 pounds and Adrian’s diary.  This is a mystery that must be explained.

            We’re on page 69, and at the beginning of part two of the novel.

 

Obsession

 

            The second, and larger, part of The Sense of an Ending, involves Tony as a 60-year-old.  The poor guy is obsessed with his past.

            He consults his ex-wife, Margaret.  (He had married and divorced a woman who is Veronica’s opposite—she has a low opinion of mysteriousness.)

            Margaret suggests he take the money from Mrs. Ford and take Margaret on a holiday. 

            “If she’d wanted me to spend the money on a holiday for two,” Tony muses about his straightforward ex, “she’d have said so.  Yes, I realize that’s exactly what she did say, but…”

            The painfulness of Tony’s predicament—his struggle and dimly dawning awareness of his lack of a great life (like John Marcher in Henry James’ story, “The Beast in the Jungle”)—contains a lot of humor, and Barnes is a virtuoso in mining that for pace and poignancy.

            At one point, Veronica takes him on a wild drive to give him a clue about what’s what, and Tony, thinking he has the sane person’s upper hand, irritates her with a barrage of banalities.

            “This is a very interesting part of town,” he says.

            “There are a lot of fat people around nowadays,” he says.

            Let me tell you about the novel’s ending.   This is not in the least a give-away because Barnes leaves you with Tony saying he’s finally figured things out, but he doesn’t reveal what.  Barnes tells you what memories Tony is targeting, but not their explanations.

            Isn’t that the mark of a great book?  You want to keep thinking about it after you’ve put it down.

 

THE BOOK

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Knopf, 2011, 169 pages, $23.95; Vintage trade paper, 2012, $14.95).  The novel was short-listed for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

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