What if We Quit Dying?
As I mentioned earlier, when I was in school, I loved the week between Christmas and New Year’s because all I did during that time was read, book after book. I wanted to replicate that reading marathon this year, and, in particular, read the Spanish-language based books my Mother gave me for Christmas last year (yeah, I know I’m late, but I wanted to read them all at one sitting, and I haven’t had the block of time to do that.)
Even though it has stretched into February (Happy Valentine’s Day!), I have read all the books. The experience (and experiment) was good. I mostly got what I wanted: a cache of writers who typically use a large cast of characters and do not feel they must follow the traditional narrative arc.
For the next several blog posts, I’m going to share with y’all a few of my reviews on Goodreads in case you might be interested.
Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago (set in fictionalized Portugal, pub 2015) Plot Summary: people quit dying
When I read John Updike’s quote on the book jacket (“Our impression is of a writer, like Faulkner, so confident of his resources and ultimate destination that he can bring any impossibility to life by hurling words at it.”), I thought, well, that’s not very nice. Snarky, even. Having read the book, I can see where Updike was coming from (though the comparison with Faulkner isn’t apt, except as to punctuation + sentence length.)
The “hurling of words” feeling comes from the first half of the book being a told story. No scenes. Just the author telling us what happens in this particular country when people stop dying. It’s funny; it’s smart; it’s imaginative. It becomes boring. I kept flipping forward to see if he was ever going to dip down into scene, characters, an intimate story (he teases us with one example and leaves the impression that, yes, he is going to use these folks to show the human toll of this scenario, but he doesn’t.) When it did segue to characters, I was not impressed with the beautiful-death-falls-for middle-aged cellist plot line. TBH, my favorite character in the novel was the scythe. And the true conversion might have happened when the dog jumped in her lap…
I am, however, grateful for the other reviews of this book because I will go read Blindness or The Gospel According to Jesus Christ where it appears Saramago’s talents were put to better use.