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Chris, March 31, 2012 in Idle Book Club Episodes
Regarding Veronica, I feel like her inscrutableness is maybe part of Barnes' point - she's a part of Tony's past and we (and Tony) find her as impenetrable as the truth about his past. It seems a bit of a leap to say that because we can't ascribe motive to her in a way that makes sense to us, her actions can only be interpreted as a literary device. I think it comes down to how much faith you place in the author.
I really loved the first cast. It was great to hear you guys voice your opinions and discuss the novel. An interesting facet of The Sense of an Ending that wasn't discussed as much on the cast is how the act of suicide is portrayed in such a positive, or at least non-judgemental light in the book. I found it fascinating how deftly Barnes brings you on-side with Tony's view that Adrian taking his own life was a noble, even altruistic act. I don't think that the point is to make the reader think that suicide is okay, but it certainly made me think a lot more about the varied reasons people have for killing themselves, and exactly how much our instinct of self-preservation takes a part in our disparagement of the act of suicide.
My copy of Cloud Atlas is in the mail - looking forward to next month!
I'm getting close to finishing my rereading now, and I'm struck by how, uh, far-fetched some of the theories I've seen on the forum are given the actual content of the text. I think there's a tendency of people who like games, in reading books, to look at an ambiguous narrative like this as some sort of puzzle to be solved, which is kind of a trap. It leads easily to a high-school-English-class style reading, where the emotion and life is drained out of a work in order to analyze it in a purely analytical and constructed fashion. At least, I found at certain points that my brain was trying to do this, to come up with The Key to the narrative, when that's not really at all what the book is about I think.
Regarding Veronica's actions, I think what she wants is for Tony to see that the world isn't All About Him-- not in a selfish way, but he does see himself as the protagonist of whatever story he comes into, relates to everything as it relates to His Story. She gives him the letter, not to show him what a horrible person HE was, but to show him his tendency to view things entirely in terms of how they relate directly to him- IE, why he saw Veronica's and Adrian's letter as a calculated insult instead of basically emotional due diligence. Only when he starts asking her about things that don't have a direct bearing on his own personal story does she begin to warm up to him, only to close off again when they meet and she finds that he's still telling his own story to himself and the only reason he'd been asking is because of a false intimacy between them he had created rather than genuine outgoing interest in others.
This is my interpretation, anyway. Still 20 pages from finishing again, so something else may occur to me, but I wanted to write it down before I forgot.
So how is that interpretation not what you criticized in the first paragraph?
Well, exactly. These are things we're all doing, just part of reading and parsing a story, so it's kind of a matter of degree. Are we trying to understand a character's motivations in an empathetic way or are we just trying to 'solve' the book? That's also something I feel like maybe Tony doesn't get, the entire second half of the book he's treating all of this like it's some kind of adventure, like it's a problem to be solved, when for her it's her life.
I do think, though, that there is some qualitative difference between trying to understand where a character in a novel is coming from when they say something and trying to distill a message that may or may not be intended from the novel itself. If a novel could be expressed as a message, or even as a puzzle, then there would be no good reason for it to be a novel-- it would be a word trick instead of a story.
Hah, I would say that if it's just a story there's no reason for it to be a novel.
It really depends on the story. I think this one would be challenging to tell well in another medium, since most of them don't handle ambiguity as well.
Is there anything out-of-the-ordinary about the .mp3 files for the idle book cast? My little mp3 player choked a little bit on both files, freezing for about 45 seconds before starting to play. It played them fine once it got going, but it was weird. I've never run across an .mp3 file that does that (including idle thumbs episodes), but it happed with both of these files.
I wrote a bloog partially inspired by this discussion, the book, and my frustrations with myself and others reading books like puzzles.
Reduction of Metaphor
Just finished listening. Man this book, and podcast were EXTREMELY affecting to me, especially when Chris related his past relationship in college. I just started my second year of college and last semester got involved in, and ended my first serious relationship. While I didn't write a letter, the manner in which I ended the relationship is currently what I consider to be the worst thing I have ever done, for reasons I don't really feel comfortable speaking about on a public internet forum.
All these thoughts of Who I aspire to be vs. who I actually am have been at the forefront of my mind for the past several months, and this story had a staggering impact on me. I honestly had to put the book down and cried for about 30 minutes while reading his letter, and similarly had to stop listening to the podcast after listening to Chris impart his past story to the audience. This book resonated with me in a profound way, considering the time I read it in my own life, and although I've certainly read novels that have had some impact on me, none come close to the impact this one had on me at this current time.
Although this may be a bit of a strange thing to say, I am incredibly grateful to Chris, Jake, and Sean for selecting this book when they did. Thanks thumbs
Just wanted to drop by and say I listened to the audiobook of this...
It was really great, It really was like the he was just talking to me about his life. It has been a while since I heard it, but I really enjoyed it! It made my laundry hanging much more enjoyable.
Seconded. Richard Morant's narration was just spot-on: warm, articulate and world weary. I did regret not being able to stop and take notes (well, iPhone photographs) of some of the more memorable passages, but it really added a wonderful extra dimension to the experience.
I know I'm incredibly late to the table here, but I've just finished the book and the bookcast this evening.I love the podcast and the bookcast, especially for giving me an ever growing list of things to fill my weekly train journeys with.Back to the book, the biggest thing I took away from it is that the entire book was merely a footnote in the life story of Veronica, just like all the history textbooks they read
as young adults.
I love that the majority of Tony's life is reduced to a few sentences because it frames his regret and remorse so perfectly, in that he left a lingering mark on Veronica's life
that echoed throughout the 40 years that he could just skip through but she would have torturingly endured. He just didn't get it. It really raises some pertinent questions
about whether or not the readers life has ever gone completely to plan and what fulfilling that "plan" has done to everyone around you. That butterfly effect of your mere
presence in someone else’s life will imperceptibly move and shape them, for better or worse, regardless of any lingering letters or words of wisdom. I love that Tony tries
to build almost an artificial history for himself at the end by becoming a regular at a pub and a shop nowhere near him, in the hopes of recapturing a thin sliver of his old
life. It's such a human thing, and even though as a reader i didn't like Tony any more, i felt sorry for the guilt and shame he must have been feeling. I even kept thinking
he might take his own life at the end, to rid himself of the guilt and shame; seppaku almost. I guess he couldn't pull off that grandiose a gesture to life.
Life is so fragile as well, a simple letter can be the pivot of a whole life, as fragile as the memories they become. How we can construct a life for ourselves on a foundation
of sand, forcing it out of sheer will and disbelief that we can be that cruel.
Plus i always feel like Tony in that the things i write always seem so much better in my head, but then when i commit them to paper they are never as good, how he shows
that with his correspondance with Jack really stood out to me, especially because of how many letters he wrote as a kid.It says a lot of people how much he lingers on the "failure" of a relationship with Veronica and yet brushes over the good relationship with Annie, he lingers on his failings
so much towards the end of his life, no matter how many triumphs he has in a Daughter and a peaceable existence he prefers to judge himself through his failure. It really
hit home for me in so many places, uncomfortably so in how much I'm waiting for my life to begin as they said, and in how our lives are but fleeting memories before they
are history. I hope I'm young enough to still change this, leave a better legacy than just remorse and regret.
I'm so glad you guys read this book otherwise I’m not sure I would have, but it's really deeply affected me and I wanted to say thanks.
They've made a movie
Looking forward to the shots of the book's first paragraph.
The sense of an ending movie is free to watch with amazon prime (in the UK at least, maybe everywhere)
Don’t actually know if it’s any good... 6.3/10 IMDB. 1h48 seems a bit long for the source material
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