Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes & Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

I remember, in no particular order:
- a shiny inner wrist; 
- steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it; 
- gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house; 
- a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams; 
- another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface; 
- bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.   [Opening of The Sense of an Ending]


The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, narrated by Richard Morant
AudioGo, 2011
Fiction; 150 pgs
Goodreads Summary: 
This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about--until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he'd left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he'd understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.
The writing in The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is beautiful. Had I been reading the book instead of listening to it, I imagine I would have highlighted passages on just about every page—or at least made note of them.

I liked the narrator quite well, his voice almost hypnotizing. Maybe that was just the accent. I love a British accent. I wasn’t so fond of the main character, although I was interested in the direction his story was going.

When I came to the end of The Sense of an Ending, I found myself wondering what had just happened. Was that really the end? It’s quite a twist, I’ll give it that. I almost want to re-listen to it to see if I missed something because it kind of feels like I did. And I find myself asking, “Is that all?” I am not really sure what I think of it when all is said and done. Did I like it? I think so? But maybe it was too academic for me.

You can learn more about Julian Barnes and his books on the author's website

*

I was in a coffee shop looking through the want ads when I read, "Macy's Herald Square, the largest store in the world, has big opportunities for out-going, fun-loving people of all shapes and sizes who want more than just a holiday job!" ~ Opening of Holidays on Ice 


Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Little Brown & Co, 1998
Fiction/Nonfiction; 176 pgs

Goodreads Summary: 
David Sedaris's beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy's elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris's tales of tardy trick-or-treaters (Us and Them); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French (Jesus Shaves); what to do when you've been locked out in a snowstorm (Let It Snow); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations (Six to Eight Black Men); what Halloween at the medical examiner's looks like (The Monster Mash); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry (Cow and Turkey).

The last time I attempted something by David Sedaris, I could not finish it. It was the audio version of Me Talk Pretty One Day, narrated by the author himself. I had heard such great things about Sedaris, particularly his humor. I didn't make it very far in that one. When Holidays on Ice came in the mail via my postal mail book group, I tried to keep an open mind while at the same time being a little leery. Every author deserves a second chance. Maybe I would like this one better.


I wish that had been the case. I did at least finish Holidays on Ice. Sedaris's fictional characters are not particularly likeable nor did I connect with him in his more biographical stories. I got the impression these stories are meant to poke fun at certain behaviors and practices--satire and dry humor abound. Most fell flat for me though. "Jesus Shaves," in which various Easter traditions are discussed among people from different cultures, was probably my favorite if I had to pick one. Each of the stories centers around the holiday theme--family get-togethers, mall Santa elves, neighborly competition and charity, and tradition, among them. This was a quick read for me, mostly because I was rushing through just to finish it.

You can learn more about David Sedaris and his books on the author's website


© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

16 comments:

  1. Julian Barnes' book sounds interesting. I've not read anything by this author so I'll have to check out his books.

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    1. Melody - I would be willing to give him another try.

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  2. The Sense of an Ending sounds like a great read, albeit one that seems suited for when you have lots of time to take in the language and think about the ending.

    I keep seeing David Sedaris' books around but for some reason I've never really felt the urge to read them. Your review has convinced me that I'm probably not missing out on much :p

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    1. Eustacia - I might have faired better with The Sense of Ending had I read a print version. I'd be willing to try the author again.

      Sedaris, on the other hand, I think I'm done with.

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  3. I bet I'd do better with The Sense of an Ending in print.

    I love Sedaris's books on audio - sorry Holidays on Ice didn't work for you.

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    1. Kathy - I think I would have liked The Sense of an Ending in print better myself.

      I feel bad for not liking Sedaris. I know you ans so many others really enjoy his work.
      :-(

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  4. I've read both of these. Sense of an Ending was a bit of a puzzle for me. I am not sure why it got so much attention. Holidays on Ice was pretty darn funny. I actually gifted my copy to a custodian here who was bitching about the holidays. LOL.

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    1. Ti - I really liked Barnes writing style. Perhaps I'd fare better with his work in print. Or maybe I should watch the movie . . .

      I wish I found Sedaris funny. I know he's quite popular.

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  5. I have heard such good things about The Sense of an Ending. Your comments about the conclusion have me curious and intrigued.

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    1. Brian - I would really be interested in your thoughts on The Sense of an Ending if you read it.

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  6. I tried Julian Barnes once, and since it didn't suit me at the time, I've never given him another chance. His work is highly respected, so I should probably try again...but I'm not sure his writing works for me.

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    1. Jenclair - I do believe in second chances if I liked something about a book, even if not the entire book. I may try something else by Barnes in the future, but it probably won't be soon.

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  7. I'm not a big David Sedaris fan either. Something about his humor just doesn't especially appeal to me. The Sense of an Ending sounds quite lovely though.

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    1. Suzanne - I am glad I am not the only one who doesn't care for David Sedaris's writing.

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  8. I've made it through one Sedaris book that I actually enjoyed and the rest were either forced finishes or DNFs. 99% of the time I don't think his humor works for me. I'm a sucker for an accent on an audio book! I listened to a mystery set in Scotland and the narrators accent was incredibly thick and at first I had a bit of a hard time actually understanding what he was saying but I kept listening because I liked hearing him talk!

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    1. Katherine - I like accents on audio books too. :-)

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