Sunday, March 12, 2006

Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, 1989.

I picked this book off the shelf the other day for a reason I can’t now remember. I hadn’t reread it since I bought it, back at Western. It’s a wonderfully funny and dry book—exactly the kind of humour I enjoy.
What made me reread it now, though, was glancing through it and noticing a passage I had marked:

For the point is this: not that myth refers us back to some original event which has been fancifully transcribed as it passed through the collective memory; but that it refers us forward to something that will happen, that must happen. Myth will become reality, however sceptical we might be. (181)

Barnes captures something important about myth with that idea, though not quite how I’d enter into playing with the idea.

At any rate. A rollicking good read, this book is fascinating in its imaginations. It rewrites the story of the Ark several times, in many different ways, and takes it to places that that story might never otherwise have been thought to touch. I think what I like most about the book is that it does stretch me to read the world, and to imagine, differently than I tend so to do.