I’ve always been a bit impressed by Julian Barnes’ ability to capture the rather raw and real emotions of the human heart. The stories hThe Only Story
I’ve always been a bit impressed by Julian Barnes’ ability to capture the rather raw and real emotions of the human heart. The stories he tells, are often ones that leave you feeling a bit blue, but also triggers certain deep emotions and memories of one’s own past. The Sense of an Ending, his previous book, was certainly one that tugs at one’s heartstrings long after the short novel ends.
Barnes’ latest book, The Only Story, is one that slowly, but surely causes the reader to see and feel the emotional tolls that the protagonist has had to experience over nearly a life time.
It is not difficult to find snippets of prose in Julian Barnes’ books that could be extracted and imagined as memorable lines in a movie adaptation. In fact, his novels, this one included, could very well be adapted into good screen plays, and with good casting, perhaps make good, melancholy films. Having been aware of this, I began the novel with the intention of jotting down good snippets that I liked, yet I became too captivated by the story and did not want to disrupt the flow of my reading, so I forewent that idea, and only underlined a few lines towards the end.
Perhaps my favorite line from the last dozen pages of the book: “... that everyone has their love story. Even if it was a fiasco, even if it fizzled out, never got going, had all been in the mind to begin with: that didn’t make it any less real. And it was the only story.”
This is ultimately a story about love, a tender story of a life time of love, heartbreak, and the aftermath. Perhaps everyone has their “only story.” One that is at times memorable, oftentimes forgettable, but definitely unique and personal. ...more
Finally managed to finish reading Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman (author of The World is Flat). It’s been a bit of stop-and-go for this bFinally managed to finish reading Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman (author of The World is Flat). It’s been a bit of stop-and-go for this book, picking it up only during weekends.
I’ve decided to take a more conscientious approach in jotting down my own thoughts and certain interesting passages, not only because this book touches upon a number of important and thought-provoking topics, but also to make sure my reactions, however fleeting, are given a chance to be put on paper (or at least into the cloud).
The book, as I noted in a couple of reading notes along the way, touches upon the three forces that Friedman believes have the largest impact on the 21st century - technology, globalization, and climate change & biodiversity loss, and the acceleration we are all experiencing around us, at once.
He notes, for example, that in 2000, advances in technology made connectivity fast, free, easy and ubiquitous, and in 2007, made complexity fast, free and easy but also invisible, were in fact inflection points in our modern history that have blown apart our work place and our society at large, beyond anything we’ve seen since the Industrial Revolution blew away the guild-based workplace.
Friedman states that changes we are experiencing in this age of accelerations are in many ways happening faster than most of us in the industrialized and developed world can comfortably adjust, and it is many times tougher for the less connected, less open part of the world to adapt. Social media, while it has made human interaction seemingly faster, more convenient and information sharing more instantaneous, has also presented challenges that have profoundly impacted the political and economic environment and social dynamics around the world.
For example, he notes five critical challenges facing today’s social media in the political arena:
1. 1. We don’t know how to deal with rumors 2. 2. We create our own echo chambers 3. 3. Online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs 4. 4. It becomes really hard to challenge our opinions 5. 5. Today our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations.
We tend to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.
Friedman spends three-fourth of the book laying out the big issues facing all of us, globally, in this age of accelerations, yet the solution he proposes which he dedicates a good portion of the last few chapters, is a need to promote resilience and propulsion via innovation in the building of healthy communities.
He takes us back to his hometown of St, Louis Parks, Minnesota, and walks us through how this small town has, with the resilience of its communities, its emphasis on education and cooperation, its openness to changes in economic, social and demographics, has anchored its success over the last five decades.
Most of the issues Friedman identifies and analyses, with the help of experts in respective fields, are not new. However, it is worthwhile to ponder whether the acceleration we all experience in the world around us, in particular in the last 10 years, is causing a fundamental change, or have already caused a fundamental change in this society we all live. Social media now play a critical role, perhaps even disproportionate role in politics, in business and finance and beyond. We’ve seen global, regional and national level politics become overtaken by extremists with moderates’ voices being quickly drown out. Yet we have seen local governments (in New York, California in the US, regional, provincial even city governments in Europe) take on more prominent roles in defining and enacting more moderate and effective policies amidst stalemates on the same issues at a national or international level. Communities are gaining more power and influence derived from people feeling more anchored and more trusting of their communities than their national or federal governments.
In dealing with the much larger issues identified and described in the first 300+ pages of this book, we need to pause and focus on building a stronger tie to our immediate surroundings, our communities. Hope lies in all of us.