Archive for the ‘End-of-Life’ Category
Anita Brookner is arguably one of the finest prose writers living today. Her keen precision and clean, stark sentences are edged with luminous turns of phrase and biting ironies. Her characters lead insular, lonely lives and rarely do anything optimistic with their existence, no matter how astute their insight.
Retired banker Paul Sturgis is no exception. He is 72 years old and lives a tightly circumscribed life. There is minimal pleasure in his activities, such as frequenting art museums, occasional travel around Europe, visiting his hairdresser, and his obligatory sojourns to a distant relative, Helena. Walking is his favorite activity, and it is during his perambulations that he examines his life in detail.
This book unsettled me. Its rendering of a mind descending (drifting? decaying?) into an Alzheimerian abyss is frightening in its deft, almost poetic, description. Indeed, it is disarming in its expanding degrees of what is normal to what is irrevocably and silently lost. If you worry about Alzheimerâ€™s–and who cannot but worry–or have experienced it in your family, the tale told in The Wilderness, the story of Lincolnshire (England) architect Jake Jameson, will stun you. Simply and frighteningly stun you.
There is a great deal to like in Helen Simonson’s debut novel, MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND, whose protagonist is sixty-eight year old widower Major Ernest Pettigrew. The Major, who lives in a small English village named Edgecombe St. Mary, occasionally plays golf with his cronies, dines at the club, and is well-respected among the townspeople. Still, something is missing. He still remembers his late wife, Nancy, with longing, and he derives small solace from the indifferent ministrations of his only son, Robert, a self-centered social climber who has acquired a forthright and droll American girlfriend named Sandy. When Pettigrew hears of his younger brother’s death, he is overcome with grief, although the two had not seen each other much of late.
Baba Yaga is a star player in Eastern European myths. The Russian version involves a crackly old witch ready to spark terror in childrenâ€™s hearts. Croatian author Dubravka Ugresic, in her wonderful book, BABA YAGA LAID AND EGG, lays out modern-day interpretations of this age-old myth. These â€świtches,â€ť Ugresic tells us, are all around usâ€”old women limbs curling from arthritis, shuffling along, waiting, pondering the end of their lives. The book is laid out in three sectionsâ€”each a different take on the myth.
February 3, 2010
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: Aging, Canongate, Croatia, Dubravka Ugresic, Myth Â· Posted in: Allegory/Fable, Croatia, End-of-Life, James Tiptree Winner, Literary, Russia, Translated, World Lit
Reading an Anne Tyler novel is like listening to a gentle friend tell you a story, a friend you trust, someone who practices yoga or meditates and is unflappable as a result. This friend has a knack for knowing people, but isnâ€™t a know-it-all. And most of all she has a sense of caring, and exhibits compassion toward the people in her stories. She is a good friend, indeed. And a wonderful story teller.
In REAL LIFE & LIARS, protagonist Mira Zielinski represents a new demographic for our times: hippie turned senior, at age sixty-five still free-spirited and defiant, who has decided to refuse treatment for her recently diagnosed breast cancer. Sheâ€™s also decided to withhold the diagnosis from her three grown children, as they converge on the family home for a grand 35th anniversary party. As it turns out, however, the Zielinski children are bringing home a few secrets of their own.