Listen Now Stories for Old Men Waiting or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_732747352.
The fact that 1) Lisa LC picked up and enjoyed Rules for Old Men Waiting, and that 2) we both have recently read and loved Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson led us to a discussion of what we see as an emerging trend in books: those in which men are reflecting upon their lives and, well let’s face it, are doing so as they wait to die -ahem, we mean living out what’s left of their golden years!
So, since we love a challenge, we spent this BookJam attempting to paint an upbeat yet truthful picture of these books while actually discussing narrators who are “waiting to die.” The books we chose to include are:
Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey
This novel shows us an 80-year-old man who loved his wife and is passionately missing her since she died. The plot finds him waiting to die so that he may join her again. Lisa LC says it is beautifully written and completely atmospheric – you will tremendously enjoy the time you spend in the novel’s Cape Cod setting. And you enjoy the time you spend with the man while he waits.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
“Failed in London try Hong Kong – FILTH” is a description attached to the main character in this novel – Sir Edward Feathers, a barrister who has divided his life between Great Britain and Asia. The big question for the reader as you learn about his life is -does this nickname actually apply to Sir Feathers? We both enjoyed the humor, the wit, the knowledge gained from Old Filth as he looks back on his life as a barrister and his loveless (unlike in Rules for Old Men Waiting) marriage. As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that this marriage was to a woman, now dead, whom he did not truly know at all. The cause for all this reflection? Well, his life’s rival moves next door to the secluded home Old Filth chose for an uneventful retirement.
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson - The randomness of neighbors jump starts the reflections in this novel as well (See Old Filth above). When the brother of a childhood friend moves next door to Trond Sander, a man dwelling in self-imposed exile on the edge of Norway, it causes Trond to think back on a day in his childhood where Trond and the childhood friend chose to spend the day stealing horses. The entire book is beautiful, but bleak. It also has you questioning what decisions you have made that will become the point (apparent only in retrospect of course) that your life turned.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – Lisa LC describes this novel as “full of energy and youth” with writing that is “unusual and brilliant”. Do we need to say any more to get you to read this book after that? In case we do, here is a bit about the plot. This book is about a book – a long-lost book that reappears and connects an old man – Leo Gursky - searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother’s loneliness. In the present, Gursky is merely surviving, tapping his radiator every day to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. This book lives on in the life of the girl of this novel. Read it for details of how these stories connect.
To help those of you who made it through the melancholy and would now just like a book that makes you laugh, we both recommend Family Man by Elinor Lipman.
The narrator – Henry Archer, a divorced gay man – in this novel has seen fewer years than the men in the books discussed above, but is never the less reviewing his life. And yes, again the review is instigated by a change in neighbor. (Maybe this podcast should be titled Old Men and Their New Neighbors.) In this case, his long-lost step daughter moves in with him rekindling a relationship he loved long ago and causing him to reflect on many of his decisions and past loves. If you like screwball comedies, you will enjoy this book. And, if by chance you love Manhattan, you will like the fact that NYC comes across as a character in the Family Man.
Hmmm Maybe this podcast will inspire some Father’s Day reading/gifts.