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.