September Recommendations

I get nostalgic in September, so I decided to pick five books that dwell in memory and its effects on the present.  I love how the past pervades these books, haunting the characters.

  • The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (original review July 10, 2008).  Here we have Stevens, the quintessential English butler, only the days of the manor house have past.  Once a lively household with a large staff appropriate for the important meetings that would take place there, the home is now owned by an American who himself seems to have purchased the home as a whim, a relic of the past.  Approaching the autumn of his life, Stevens believes there is a chance to bring back the glory days of his household, and he decides to visit his friend Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper, whom he also — though he wouldn’t admit it then and barely now — loved.
  • An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard (original review September 21, 2008).  This is a remarkable book about Dillard’s childhood where she teaches us to “see.”  Dillard doesn’t curb her romantic tendencies as she tries to prove Thoreau wrong when he said he had never met a man who was fully awake.
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell (original review July 20, 2009).  Each of these five books is in contention as my favorite book, but So Long, See You Tomorrow is at the top.  I’ve recommended this book to many people since I finished it, and when I ask them how they liked it they get a reverent look at slowly say: “That was a great book.”  It is.  No summary necessary here — just read it.
  • The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares (original review September 7, 2009).  A strange work of fantasy that is profoundly intimate and lonely.  A man is stranded on a strange island, but soon falls in love with a woman who, it appears, ignores his existence. 
  • The Emigrants, by W.G. Sebald (original review September 27, 2009).  I have now read all of Sebald’s “fictions” (though I still need to review Austerlitz), and this one remains my favorite, regardless of how masterful the others are.  Here Sebald writes about four survivors of the Holocaust, but it’s true power lies in its account of the ghostly past. 

4 thoughts on “September Recommendations”

  1. An interesting theme — I’ve read all but the Caseres and would certainly second your assessment. And, to add a contemporary novel, would hazard the opinion that Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending would be a worthy addition to your list.

  2. Trevor says:

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on The Invention of Morel, Kevin. It’s short, so even if you don’t like it not much time lost :).

    As for the Barnes, I still haven’t received my promised ARC. Hopefully soon since they said it would likely be ready at the end of August / beginning of September.

    By the way, I see your Shadow Giller post, and I can’t wait!

  3. leroyhunter says:

    Great recommendations Trevor. I’m with you 100% on Sebald and Maxwell. I read Casares a while ago and I don’t think I really “got” it. It’s so short that a re-read would be quick and painless.

    I’ve often planned to read more Ishiguro but never done it: An Artist of the Floating World is the only one I’ve read. I’d like to get to Remains of the Day. And by default, being included in such august company, Dillard must be worth a look. I’ll look her up, starting with your review.

  4. Trevor says:

    Leroy, these five books are (as I mentioned above) some of my absolute favorites of my favorites. The theme of time and memory is one that always interests me, and Ishiguro and Dillard are up to the task (though I have to say that the Maxwell and the Sebald are my two favorites on the list).

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