#CoffeehouseReads: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

What was supposed to be a productive day writing papers in a coffeeshop turned out to be a pretty relaxing albeit unproductive day re-reading one of my most favorite novels from my bookshelf. I first read The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes back in my undergrad college days. I let my sister borrow this book recently since I wanted to keenly influence her on discovering great reads from contemporary authors. I was really glad that she loved it though because our reading genres are almost always polar opposites. She’s more of a Stephen King type of reader and I’m more into the romantic / fantasy / surrealism genre.

Apart from my Haruki Murakami obsession, The Sense of an Ending is really one of my highly recommended books of all time. The nostalgic narration, the concept of time as a literay device, and the hubris of youth; every part of this book was just perfectly described in prose that I tended to sustain the habit of picking it up every few years just to read the favorite parts that I highlighted.  Here’s one of my favorite ones:

That quote in the beginning of the book made such a profound impact on me right afrer I first read it. I even photoshopped that quote and posted it on Pinterest a few years ago. But reading it again now a few years later, I think I can relate to it more.

The concept of growing old and chasing time had been one of the major themes in The Sense of an Ending. It had been something that fascinated me most. Being young makes you feel invincible. Like there are endless possibilities that await you. But a few years after I graduated and finally stepped into the corporate world, I realized that now I can identify myself more into Tony’s sentiments. I understood his perspective more now than a few years ago, specifically about the fact that he blocked out the bad memories of his college days such as his scathing letter to Adrian. There are chapters in life that we all want to forget and I understood Tony more now that I have had a few years of living in the real world myself while I struggle to master the art of “adulting” as I get older.

Another central theme in the book was the concept of suicide. Adrian’s suicide came as a shock to Tony and his friends. He seemed like a clever boy with a bright future ahead of him and taking his own life abruptly seemed like such a waste. It was until later in the book that we found out why he really killed himself. What Tony first thought was an admirable reason which stated that “a free person has a philosophical duty to examine the nature of life, and may then choose to renounce it” was actually motivated by selfishness. He didn’t want to be held accountable for his actions and he chose the easy way out – by ending his life.

I also watched a recent movie adaptation of this book. Tony was played by Jim Broadbent (aka Professor Slughorn). Although the movie was good and it’s admirable that it stayed true to the novel’s storyline, it still failed to resonate to me as much as the book did. And that I think is the magic of The Sense of an Ending, because every single time I pick it up again, it seems like there is still something more to the story that is waiting to be uncovered.

#CoffeehouseReads: Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson

I don’t normally buy a lot of poetry books and when I do it’s usually a collection of poems that I’ve read before and I want a physical copy of. But a few month ago, I stumbled upon this one by chance while I was a bit early for my date with my boyfriend. So I went to a bookstore to pass the time while waiting for my date and picked it up. 

I was instantly mesmerized by the words of the first few pages and after a few minutes, I was hooked and I can’t put it down.  Despite wanting it so badly and just go full on “take my money” mode, I decided not to buy it yet. For one, this book was way too expensive from my usual finds. I usually look at secondhand bookstores to add books for my bookshelf and it’s always usually something that I’ve read before and I want my own copy of. But this one is brand new, hardbound, and way over my budget. So I did what any rational millennial would do, I decided to sleep on it.

A week later, when I still couldn’t get the book out of my mind I decided to give in and buy it. And I have no regrets because this is one of the best splurges I had when it comes to books.

The verses of this collection really moved me. Words that were written in a typewriter almost felt like an art form that’s waiting to be discovered. Different pieces of paper, receipts, photos, and even pages from a book, added a more colorful story to the poems written on it.

I usually read the book while I’m commuting to the city for my grad school classes and every page I turn left me feeling inspired. I felt like there’s so much wonder and beauty left to be seen in our lives. It’s actually a very relaxing book to read when you’re stuck sitting somewhere around the corner of a coffeeshop to pass the time.

After reading the entire thing, sometimes I still bring the book to school with me. I open up random pages from the book and read it while I’m on the road. I was enthralled with his work because his poems resonate even to people who don’t normally read poetry. Writing something in a typwriter seems very brave and raw, without a chance to edit, the words felt vulnerable and beautiful. The author’s spur-of-the-moment thoughts were immortalized in lovely pieces of typewritten poems. It’s ingeniously crafty and creative. As someone who writes for a living but struggles to put their own creative thoughts in a piece of paper, this wonderful collection of poetry seems like a good place to thaw out those creative juices and be inspired.