Edgar Allan Poe and Julian Barnes Birthday

Birthday twins – both Edgar Allan Poe and Julian Barnes were born on this day.

Edgar Allan Poe

Poe, born in 1809, would be over 200 years old.  He won two small awards: a $50 prize for “MS. Found in a Bottle” awarded by the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. In 1845, Poe won a $100 award for “The Gold Bug” awarded by the Dollar Newspaper, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Julian Barnes

Barnes is still writing – most recently winning the 2011 Man Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending – prestige and £50,000.

Put the Dust Jackets Back On

Interior designers often recommend removing the dust jackets from books before placing them on the shelves “for a more unified appearance,”  but Julie Bosman in her article for the New York Times – Selling Old-Style Books by Their Gilded Covers -writes that publishers are now counting on innovative book covers to compete with electronic books.

“If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.”

New books with attracting and unusual covers include…


“If the physical book, as we’ve come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the e-book, it has to look like something worth buying and worth keeping.”     Julian Barnes

One of my favorite books with one of my favorite covers – still on my shelf –

Burning the Evidence

Do you keep a diary?  Do you record your anger and anxieties, or keep notes reminding you of people, events, times to remember? In her article for the New York Times – Burning the Diaries  – Dominique Browning describes her cathartic experience – secure that her children will not discover her secrets.   In this year’s Man Booker Award winning The Sense of An Ending, Julian Barnes has his character, Victoria, burn a diary left by Adrian, who has committed suicide.  But a letter written by the main character survives to haunt him.

Although Jane Austen wrote over 3,000 letters, only 160 survive; her sister destroyed or edited most.  Lewis Carroll’s diaries from 1858 – 1862 mysteriously disappeared – effectively hiding his inspiration or notes for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1862.

The second best advice a friend passed on to me – keep a journal, assigning emotions to paper as the vehicle for cleansing – sometimes better to quietly write it than say it.

The best advice:  destroy the pages so that no one could read them, and take offense at mutterings that were meant to be private.  Browning notes in her article that rereading her diaries only brought back miseries better either forgotten or retooled as Tony Webster tries in the Julian Barnes novel.

The shredder is just as effective as burning – and without the cleanup Browning dreads.

Related Review: The Sense of An Ending

The Sense of An Ending – 2011 Man Booker Award Winner

When you tell the story of your past, do you embellish or change events to your advantage?  Do you really remember or just think you remember? In The Sense of An Ending, Julian Barnes relates a seemingly innocuous life story, with remembrances that may not be as they seem, and with unexpected consequences from making assumptions about the past.

The book is short – less than 200 pages.  Barnes includes so many insightful observations about growing up, growing old, and growing apart, that the plot only seems a vehicle to further his scrutiny.

“…when we are young and sensitive, we are also at our most hurtful; whereas, when the blood begins to slow…we tread more carefully…”

Tony Webster, now in his sixties, opens with reminiscences about his school days; his first love – Veronica; his erudite friend – Adrian; his marriage to Margaret; his “ordinary life.”  Suddenly, he receives a mysterious and confusing message that he has inherited some money and his dead friend Adrian’s diary from Veronica’s mother, who recently died.  The diary is in the possession of Veronica, who refuses to turn it over.

As Tony tries to reconnect with his past, he remembers his version of his relationships, including his visit to meet Veronica’s family when he thought their connection was serious, and a letter he later sent to Adrian and Veronica when they became lovers, after his own affair with her was over.

The story seems a little confusing as it becomes clear that Tony’s perception of the past may not be truthful, but rather his edited version of what he chooses to remember.  Veronica repeatedly tells him: “You… don’t get it” – and neither will you for a while.  Barnes finally solves the mystery of Tony’s letter and Adrian’s death at the end of the book, in a surprising twist.

“…when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others…”

I probably would not have looked for this book had it not won the award.    I was surprised at its impact on me, and may look for more by this author.