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Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/9 - Passion

The intellect of some people is astounding. Such is the case with Alan Lightman. A graduate of Princeton, he excelled as a physicist, writing numerous articles published in top magazines and journals. He has also written several novels. I just finished Reunion, published in 2003. It's the story of a divorced fiftyish professor attending his 30th college reunion at an unnamed university in the Boston area. While he is there in body, his mind dwells in the past. His comfortable life is suddenly angst-filled, as he recalls his relationship with a ballerina in training who lived in Manhattan. It's a tale of the one who got away. Many (most?) of us have been there, but I doubt few go as gaga as the protagonist did. It is hard enough to understand our own obsessions, let alone that of another, despite the beauty of the woman in question. That is the problem I had with the book. None of it comes off as false, but it never soars. It is unusual to encounter a male character as sensitive and vulnerable as Charles, a lit major/aspiring poet who loves the works of Emily Dickinson. He is not a milquetoast, being a member of the wrestling team. The reader is privy to his inner world, and that often makes a a character appear weak and ridiculous. The prose and dialogue are first-rate, grounded, accessible to anyone, quite an accomplishment for someone with the impressive intellectual credentials of Lightman. The 231 pages read like considerably less. Here's an example: "... For what does time matter in the extravagance of youth? When an infinity of hours and years stretches in front of you, what do a few hours here or there matter? I was immortal." At a similar age, 50ish, I suffered what has, so far, been my final amorous passion. It took me a year and a half to recover. I still frequently think of the women I was nuts about, Maybe if I wrote a novel strictly about my passion for them I'd come off just as foolish and pathetic. Or perhaps the fact that I'm now 66 and have practically given up on love has something to do with my lukewarm response to the book. It was once foremost in my life. This is biggest change I've undergone, my now tepid interest in sports a distant second. When it occurs to me, I can hardly believe it. It has little to do with sex, which is still frequently on my mind. Some people have remarked about my passion for my own books, and it's always strange to hear it described as thus, as I don't get sick over literary frustration the way I have over women. Anyway, 16 users at Amazon have rated Reunion, forging to a consensus of 3.9 on a scale of five, way higher than I would go. It has a decent sale's rank, one-millionth-plus, considering it's been on the market for about 14 years. There are at least 13 million titles listed at Amazon. Lightman has more than 20 books in print and has been nominated for or won significant awards. He has been on the faculty of Harvard and is currently at MIT. His most successful novel, Einstein's Dreams, published in 1993, was an international bestseller and has been translated into 30 languages. More than 100 independent theatrical, dance, video, and musical productions worldwide have been based on it. I wish I'd come across that instead. (Facts also from Wiki)

Two customers hit the floating book shop early today, making the trek to Park Slope worth it. My thanks to the woman who bought Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke. Interested in baking, she was happy to hear the author includes dessert recipes in her books. Special thanks to the old-timer who asked for books on war, and who took SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Dragon by Don Mann and an epic novel on Vietnam whose title I've forgotten and was unable to find online. The gentleman also purchased a Rex Stour Nero Wolfe mystery, and thrillers by John Sandford and Vince Flynn. Thanks also to the young man who bought a music CD. I was busy packing up so I didn't see which he selected. The biggest surprise of the session was that no DVD's sold. I don't display Russian books in Park Slope, as I've never heard the language spoken there.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

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