This month, I read:
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
This book very nearly came out of nowhere– I found it at the Saxapahaw General Store‘s Take-a-Book-and-Leave-a-Book library, standing around and waiting for Zac to buy something. I did not leave a book.
Out of everything I’ve read this month, I think this book gave me the most trouble. It’s made me think, mostly, about the relationship between work, dignity, and the meaning of a life. Not that these sorts of sentiments aren’t in the air already– and maybe I ought to finally read that copy of Studs Terkel I keep lugging around with me before I’m allowed to speak on the subject– but I felt this book particularly keenly because I’ve had a taste, albeit a faint one, of the sort of work Stevens counts himself privileged to have performed.
What is it to work? What is it to serve? What is it to be an amateur, and what is it to be a professional? Whence dignity, whence greatness, and exactly how problematic is my Anglophilia? This life-in-retrospect, brilliantly laid out over the course of (naturally) a trip to what-might-have-been, is pure, piercing, uncomfortable genius. It is devastating.
ETA: I read this interview the other day on the Paris Review & really enjoyed it.
Koolaids: The Art of War, by Rabih Alameddine
Consciousness-raising to say the least– I cannot imagine having the heart of my world burnt out by a disease or gutted by war. I don’t know which is worse.
Alameddine tacks rapidly– confusing-on-purpose-ly– between different characters, between the parallel plotlines, and back and forth in time. The only constant, in this bricoleur’s grim meditation, is death. In the face of it, what good is family? What good are friends? What good is art?
The worst part, for me, is that I’d never heard of the Lebanese Civil War before. It embarrasses me that the world is so foreign to me.
Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir, by Stanley Hauerwas
I’m not certain why I read this now– it came to be at least two years ago as a loan, mixed into a large stack of Wendell Berry– but I did and I am glad. It’s a funny sort of relief to read a memoir– to watch someone else’s younger self navigate the world is far easier that worrying about how I’ll manage to do the same. Reading this book also made me desperate to be a Christian again, and I’m glad to say that I’m taking steps in that direction.
I’ve also been left with a reading list longer than my arm (this is the trouble with reading things that aren’t novels– a whole vein is opened up, and there’s a radical multiplicity of authors and titles), and I’m also taking steps in that direction.
A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
You know, for fun. I think it was a little bit ruined by having watched the series– reading the book felt like watching a directors cut– but I might read the rest if I come across them.