Lately I've had a bit of a renewal of interest in short stories.
For the most part, I prefer novels. But just tonight I finished The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes -- a collection of eleven short stories, published in 2004.
Barnes writes with great wisdom and wit, and this is the third book of his I have read. I've never been disappointed with him. He's the caliber of writer I've learned to trust with my time.
Know what I mean?
If not, indulge me while I explain such a statement.
Some writers have a natural gift of hmm… knowledge of the human condition. Honesty in expression. They are able to look fearlessly at despair and write about it without forgetting that humor yet has a part to play in the telling. Despair? Who wants to read about that?
Well -- in the hands of an author like Julian Barnes -- I do.
In one way or another, each of these stories is an examination of our own mortality -- of course, as experienced in the characters. Yet, at no point did I find the book to be depressing. These stories, in their various scenarios, deal with loss, regret, descent into dementia and incontinence, loves realized too late in life, separation, problems in communication, selfishness.
Here's an example of the beginning of one of the stories:
He has his good days. Of course, he has his bad days, too, but let's not think about them for the moment.
And yet, Barnes goes on to think about those bad days quite a bit.
I'm making it sound so dismal -- the opposite of my intention.
If you are the type of person that cannot for more than a minute fathom the fact that one day a eulogy will be spoken about you while you are the only one in the room not hearing it -- then yeah, this book may not be your cup of tea.
For me, though, it served to help me realize that there is yet [knock wood and watch for buses] time to alter, in a positive way, what might be said about me that inevitable day.