Just finished John Hersey's Hiroshima.
The book was originally published a year after the dropping of the first atomic bomb, with an afterword added forty years later. It's sat on the bookshelf for months, but with the recent invasion of Ukraine, it seemed the right time to pick a book up on the horrors of war.
It covers six normal citizens -- a minister, a priest, a housewife, a clerk, and two doctors -- and what their experience was. The book starts early in the morning of the bomb drop then follows them through their first day, then days, weeks, months, and years. There is terrible destruction and foulness. But I was struck by how resilient and dedicated these people were to life. And it puts things in perspective. Losing your friends, family, and all your belongings in an instant, and then being faced with decades of internal affliction from radiation poisoning...well, a lot of normal things one might bitch about seem worthless. And it also felt like a call to enjoy the life that we have already.
Short read too.
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"Someone once asked a great sheikh what Sufism was. 'The feeling of joy when sudden disappointment comes.' Don't grieve for what doesn't come. Some things that don't happen keep disasters from happening." -- Rumi
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Alternately haunting and hilarious. I wish I'd read it a long time ago. For some reason I often don't understand something until I read it, or sometimes when someone says it. There are parts of this book that hit me so hard. Things I wish I'd understood a lot sooner. Faulkner writes about life and does so in a way that sticks. That's how people are, I say to myself, that's how it is. Mostly. It's written as a series of first person narratives, and some of them I just don't buy. I mislike it when an author tries to give us the thoughts of a character he doesn't understand. Authors will often tell us what they think a person like that thinks, if that makes sense. But it's not at all believable when the writer doesn't understand people like that. This connects with something Bill James has said, that you have to understand something deeply in order to analyze it. Some of these people Faulkner does understand deeply and those narratives connect, hard. And there are times when he puts something in which is so good that I don't think about the voice or perspective. But there are some that I don't believe. I also found the ending both rushed and lazy, like he had to finish somehow. But it's still great.