Tag: Metroland

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

Posted September 19, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction, Short Stories / 0 Comments

Levels of Life by Julian BarnesTitle: Levels of Life (Goodreads)
Author: Julian Barnes
Published: Random House, 2013
Pages: 128
Genres: Non-Fiction, Short Stories
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

“Every love story is a potential grief story.”

It is official, I’m now a huge fan of Julian Barnes. Having read and enjoyed The Sense of an Ending and Metroland, I knew I had to read more of his novels. I did try Through the Window and found his essays challenging but mainly because the man is far too intelligent and I couldn’t keep up. I decided to try Levels of Life simply because I wanted to see how Barnes connects love and loss with ballooning and photography.

“Love is the meeting point of truth and magic. Truth, as in photography; magic, as in ballooning.”

Told in three masterful parts, Levels of Life tells stories that don’t seem connected but Barnes manages tol fit together. He is a master at the metaphor and this book told in narrative form tells the highs and lows of love. Part one “The Sin of Height” tells a narrative of Colonel Frederick Burnaby, an English soldier and traveller who crossed the English Channel in a hot air balloon in 1882. This story focuses on the obsessions that both Burnaby and French photographer Nadar had towards ballooning.

The next part, called “On the Level” looks at Colonel Burnaby and the French exotic actress, Sarah Bernhardt. Both shared an interest in ballooning which led to love. Two larger than life characters and a love that could never last, while Burnaby believed it was possible, Bernhardt thought differently. Here we have two stories; one depicting the highs of passion and love and the second, the idea of love fizzling out which only leaves one last essay.

“You put together two people who have not been put together before. Sometimes it is like that first attempt to harness a hydrogen balloon to a fire balloon: do you prefer crash and burn, or burn and crash?”

But sometimes it works, and something new is made, and the world is changed. Then, at some point, sooner or later, for this reason or that, one of them is taken away. And what is taken away is greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible.

“The Loss of Depth” is the last essay and is the story of the loss Julian Barnes suffered when his wife died of a brain tumour in 2008. This is a tender account of dealing with grief. The build-up of the other two essays just made the last one heart breaking and I found myself crying (something I don’t often do). Barnes explores life after losing his wife and at times it is a little funny, yet remains very moving.

“Initially, you continue doing what you used to do with her, out of familiarity, love, the need for a pattern. Soon, you realise the trap you are in: caught between repeating what you did with her, but without her, and so missing her; or doing new things, things you never did with her, and so missing her differently. You feel sharply the loss of shared vocabulary, of tropes, teases, short cuts, injokes, sillinesses, faux rebukes, amatory footnotes – all those obscure references rich in memory but valueless if explained to an outsider.” 

Julian Barnes managed to capture love and loss so perfectly, I felt like adding so many quotes to this review but I had to hold off. This is the type of book that will sit with me for a long time and I tear up just thinking about it. I’m amazed at Barnes’ skill as a writer and how he fit so much beauty and so many emotions into a short book is beyond me. I am going to have to read every book I can find from Julian Barnes.

Through the Window by Julian Barnes

Posted March 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Through the Window by Julian BarnesTitle: Through the Window (Goodreads)
Author: Julian Barnes
Published: Vintage, 2012
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for his book The Sense of an Ending which has sparked a huge increase in this man’s popularity. To follow up (cash in) on the buzz the release of Through the Window followed soon after, which holds Seventeen Essays (and a Short Story) on the books and authors that have meant the most to him over his career.

I remember reading Julian Barnes’ essay A Life with Books, which really was just a look at his reading history and I absolutely loved it. So I was eager to read this collection to learn more about this wonderful author. What I found was this collection was very dry and this made it difficult to read. Barnes is a very intelligent man and he flexed his intellectual muscles to the point where it back very difficult to read for a pseudo intellectual like me.

While I found it interesting to read this author’s thoughts on Penelope Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Kipling, Madame Bovary, Ford Madox Ford and George Orwell I tend to think Barnes wasn’t connecting to the reader like he did with his novels or the essay A Life with Books. It felt more like reading an academic essay more than just someone’s passion for these authors and books.

This is a difficult collection to get through, but people interested in learning more about Julian Barnes or these topics might find something in this book for them. I read this book as soon as I finished Ramona Koval’s By the Book, A Reader’s Guide to Life so it was difficult to go from a book with so much passion for reading to something so dry.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Posted January 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki MurakamiTitle: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2007
Pages: 180
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Haruki Murakami where he talks about his interest in running. From running for pleasure to competing in over twenty marathons and an ultramarathon. Part training log, travelogue and reminiscence, this is a memoir of Murakami’s passion for running.

Now I’m not a runner and I don’t think I ever will be but I like to read about people being passionate about a topic and although this was brief, the passion was not in short supply. Most people know Haruki Murakami for his postmodern novels which include Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84. This is an unusual memoir, not just because it only focuses on one interest, but because I don’t think any other authors have written something like it.

The book tries to explore why he is so passionate about running and why he runs. For a non runner reading this book for its memoir aspects, it’s just interesting the approach he takes. It’s like seeing Murakami’s thought process on the page; not offering tips or anything, just being nostalgic about past runs or discussing plans for a marathon or just tracking his daily runs.

For me this is nothing special, but for people obsessed with running this would be an interesting read. I read just to see the passion he has towards running, as well as the fact it was mentioned in Metroland and I want to be a book hipster. I was surprised how well this worked, like a stream of conscious of Haruki Murakami’s love of running.

Metroland by Julian Barnes

Posted January 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Metroland by Julian BarnesTitle: Metroland (Goodreads)
Author: Julian Barnes
Published: Vintage, 1980
Pages: 176
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Metroland is the first hand account of Christopher Lloyd, from growing up in the suburbs of London to the brief period after graduation in Paris and then the early years of marriage. As a child Christopher was obsessed with the idea of bourgeois lifestyle with his friend Toni. In Paris he remembers his French girlfriend Annick and now he has a mundane marriage.

While this is a novel, it’s also a reflection of Christopher Lloyd’s life. As a child he has big plans as well as being obsessed with the idea of having sex. Then he finally meets Annick and has sex and has such fond memories of this relationship. Then looking at his marriage, he sees it’s not perfect and he wonders to himself is he really happy.

Some people call it “growing up” and others “selling out”; this account of Christopher’s life was really interesting, his attitude and angst didn’t end and he just hasn’t let go with his old ideals. While his French girlfriend challenges his ideals and tries to explain that growing up isn’t selling out he never really gets it. It’s not until he reflects on his past that he starts to understand. Sure his marriage has its problems but he is not unhappy; he is content. But while you never find out what happens next, I got the feeling that Christopher has truly started to understand that his life is good and slowly is changing his thinking.

I loved Julian Barnes’ A Sense of An Ending and I wanted to explore more of his writing. I decided to read this one because of it was short and it felt like a similar style. I really thought this book had a lot to offer, in the way of ideals, morals, relationships, love and just the way we view our lives. Looking back on our lives, it’s easy to remember the good and the bad but there is a whole lot in between we tend to forget, so when Christopher is looking at his past, he misses so much.

A beautiful novel, while very short has so much in it to offer. I went and watched the movie adaption of this book as well. While it captured a lot of the books ideas, I couldn’t get past the idea of Christian Bale as Christopher Lloyd and felt it left out a lot of be beauty. Fans of Julian Barnes should check this book out. Christopher Lloyd is an interesting character; a coming of age novel but this hipster took a long time to really grow.

Monthly Review – November 2012

Posted November 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

house of leavesNovember has ended and  the holiday season is well on its way. For the people who read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, I hope you enjoyed it. Yes. it was a really weird look into post modernism and I know there were a lot of ‘WTF’ moments within this book. But I do hope everyone got something out of it, even if it is just the ability to say, “Yes, I’ve read it”. For me the book was far too pretentious, even if that is normally my thing. I’m glad to have read it, but I don’t think it is something I would read again. There were some interesting discussions about the book, including if the book is a novel or a piece of art.

In December we will be reading the Beat classic; On the Road by Jack Kerouac as part of our Travel theme. This is a relatively short book so I’m sure people will be able to fit it in around all the festivities.

My monthly reading this month might have leaned heavily toward genre fiction but I felt like it was an enjoyable and relaxing month of reading for me, apart from House of Leaves. Highlights for me include Metroland by Julian Barnes, a look into the life of Christopher as he looks over his past and tries to work out if he is happy with his life. I’ve been looking to read another Barnes book for a while and this was well worth it. Then there was The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugendies; finally a book where a love triangle is done properly. This was a book of discovery as we watch three interconnected young adults grow into adults.

What have you been reading this month? What are the highlights?

  • Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Without Warning by John Birmingham
  • San Miguel by T.C. Boyle
  • Truth by Peter Temple
  • Shadow of the Rock by Thomas Mogford
  • Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry
  • Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • No Orchids For Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
  • The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
  • The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi
  • Metroland by Julian Barnes
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides