Sunday, December 23, 2007

...to bed...


This novel made me think of other authors from the UK (Never again will I make the mistake of saying 'English'): John Banville and Ann Enright (both of them Irish). Naturally this means their main topics in their latest novels: death. Curiously enough both novels got the Booker, this year and last year. This one, Gerard Woodward's magnificent novel, "I'll Go to Bed at Noon" is part of a trilogy but stands totally by itself. This is a terrific novel that tackles the problem of alcoholism in an entire family. There's death and despair in this novel, and a lot of literary references, but it is easy to read because of Woodward's direct, even matter-of-factly prose, full of humour within the tragedy. I love this part, almost at the end of the novel when Colette, the matriarch dies (cirrhosis of the liver). This is Aldous's perspective, Colette's surviving husband:

"Afterwards Aldous sat in a small park of ornamental willows and wept. He realized he now had more time than he knew what to do with. More time than he could ever want. He was healthy. He was sixty-seven. He had no job, no wife, no children, no mortgage, no pets, and perhaps a good ten years of active life left, perhaps fifteen, perhaps twenty. Those years spread before him with a vastness such as the early palaeonthologists must have recognized when they first realized that the Earth was much older than the Bible had told them. Not a few thousand years old, but five billion years. What had the world been doing all that time, what species had risen and fallen, what ages had passed? And in the future, the pathway of time streched further than the human race could ever walk. More time than humanity could ever fill. No matter how long the human race lasted, it would only ever be a flicker in the life of the universe, a twich of an eyelid.
When he got home he found a letter for him on the mat. It was his new bus pass. A free bus pass. The GLC had recently announced free travel on London Transport for all old age pensioners" (430).

4 comments:

antonia said...

hi nico, i just have been reading the story of the old child by Erpenbeck, rather uncanny, but great, how this alienation between her and all the world is described. I have Erpenbeck's otehr stories here too, will surely have a look at it. thanks for this hint.

Nico said...

Yes, it is very eerie, and it's true that the collection is short, yet poweful, such condensation of language! As expected there's some Bachmann's reminiscences, dont't you think?

Christopher Claassen said...

Sounds interesting: I've added it to my wish list on amazon. Any other tips for novels that deal with mortality and ageing?

Dysthymiac said...

Hello - I got here from Guugling for reasons why IanMcEwan hates AnnEnwright (don't ask)

and now I have read that excerpt ... I am inspired to find the book - it's the "but what did he do next" compulsion. I have to know. A free-travel pass and no obligations.

thank you