I know I shall read (listen to) Being Dead again and again for its language, its beach landscape interpolated with scenes from the main characters' lives and their shared histories, its study of the physical decomposition of two people (yet each had achieved a kind of peace with him/herself in life), for the author's power to focus on time, a time, on objects, on two people, and for the understated ontological and biological asking and answering, asking and answering that is a seamless part of the whole.
Too, I was lucky enough to read Being Dead right after reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy...each book complementing the other in so many unexpected ways.
What a find this book was for me! It reminded me of just how a book should be, something that weaves through your days and leaves you with characters that you'll think upon all the days of your life. A little bit like Barbara Pym (eccentric and dedicated characters), Charles Dickens (rich storytelling and memorable characters), Paul Auster (love of Hawthorne and his era, though Melville's the man in this book), A.S. Byatt (lost manuscript search that never ceases to delight), Sheridan Hay touches the reader on many levels: intellectual, emotional, spiritual, along with enjoyment of her storytelling, the employment of her craft, and her narrator's knowledge of books, modes of employment, and understanding of the human heart.
This is one of my favorite biographies of all time: well-written, it shows us the complex and relentless Hamilton and his vision as a founding father. It shows us, too, his character--optimistic yet knowing depression (and grief), striving and intellectual yet at times self-destructive. I particularly enjoyed Chernow's crisp, fresh language and the mood and voice of the whole.
I found this audiobook to be an excellent introduction to Spalding Gray: his unfinished monologue, his short story, and his letter along with remembrance pieces from his closest friends, his wife, and his children gave me a better sense of him. Now I look forward to reading some of his other monologues.
Each piece in this collection is fulfilling on several levels: emotional, structural, descriptive, and thought-provoking. Each story's way of being told (as either meditation or reflection or monologue or dream) matches the mood and atmosphere of the particular animal in that story. I particularly liked the memories of the older horse, the reasoning and understanding of cattle, and the prayer of the man who provided a home for orphan cats.
I was immediately drawn in by the father/son relationship which covers so many emotions that every adult who loves a child experiences. I was drawn in, too, by the need to return (how the characters are forced to return) to the basics of finding water, food, clothing, safety, and shelter on a daily basis--a need initiated by trauma (a country now unrecognizable) and also, I think, from the specter of possibly dying before one's time. Perhaps, too, this return to basics is found among some elderly, some who live to be very old. Again, most of all, it's the father/son relationship that evokes so much for me--love, joy, fear, hope, hopelessness, terror, horror, all that is found in an adult's heart when he/she worries about a young one.
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