Monday, May 9, 2011

The Character of Rain, by Amélie Nothomb

Some books we can't read until we're ready for them. Fortunately they wait for us, which can't be said of much in life. They seem to understand our inability to pick them up. It's fine, this small book said to me, the months clicking by. When you're ready. I understand.

This week I was finally ready. I wish I'd been ready sooner.

The Character of Rain is really funny—laugh-out-loud funny—and free-spirited; serious, too—philosophically serious; and on occasion it's mournful, even heartbroken. Some of that heartbreak might have been mine, what I brought to it; but some of it wasn't. It's about the awestruck arrogance of childhood, and the ways our awe and our arrogance die.

It's a happy sad book, or a sad happy book—but that's as it should be: real happiness (being doomed) is always a bit sad; and deep sadness never loses the sweet savor of what we've lost.

A favorite quote:
When the subway comes out of a tunnel, when the black curtains are thrown open, when asphyxia stops, when the only eyes we need to see us look at us anew, the lid of death lifts, and the tomb of our brain stands open to the endless sky.
The actual title of the book is Metaphysics of the Tubes, which is a far stranger—and far better—title than The Character of Rain, a title the English version of the book was given, no doubt, by some marketing guru with no sense for the pleasure of the strange.

I'll be reading all of Nothomb's books now.

She just did some writing for The Paris Review, which can be found here and here.

No comments:

Post a Comment