Reverse Chronology in Fiction (Or Maybe This Headline Should Be at the End of This Post)

The start comes before the finish, right? That’s what I hear, but some literary works don’t follow that timeline.

Back in 2013 (which reportedly preceded 2015), I wrote a Huffington Post piece about how some fiction is chronological while other fiction jumps around via flashbacks and such. Today, I’m going to take that a step further by discussing literature in which you know the fate of the protagonist from the start.

That removes much of the suspense and story development, doesn’t it? Well, in a way. But things can still be interesting — sometimes even more interesting — when the conclusion comes first. We’re more alert to foreshadowing as we continue to read, and we’re curious how the protagonist gets to the “place” we’ve already witnessed. Plus we want to know why things ended up the way they did.

I thought about that last week while reading Camille — the novel by the Alexandre Dumas who was the son of the more famous Alexandre Dumas. Camille (originally titled The Lady of the Camellias) features the “courtesan” Marguerite Gautier, who is dead at the start of the book. Then the emotionally powerful story unfolds about how she lived her short life.

Camille was adapted for the stage and screen — two places where Betrayal also found its home. Harold Pinter’s play begins at the end of an affair and then backtracks to the start of that liaison — a stunningly effective device that adds to the reading or watching experience.

There’s also Susan Vreeland’s novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue, which traces a painting — and the painting’s profound effect on various people’s lives — from the 20th century to the 17th century. The scrolling back in time adds to the mystery and poignancy.

Or how about Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome? It’s not strictly “reverse chronological,” but we soon know that the title character has become physically damaged and very unhappy. The rest of the riveting novel goes back in time to explain how that came about.

There are also introductory sections set years or even centuries after the events in the novel unfold. For instance, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Custom-House” essay that precedes his iconic The Scarlet Letter tells about finding — in the 19th century — a faded “A” that Hester Prynne wore in the 1600s. Also, Old Mortality first focuses on an 18th-century man re-engraving the tombstones of Covenanter martyrs before Sir Walter Scott starts telling the compelling 17th-century story of those deceased people who wanted to re-establish Presbyterianism in Scotland.

Many other novels, such as Margaret Atwood’s excellent Cat’s Eye and The Blind Assassin, show middle-aged or old protagonists in the book’s present time and then flash back to those characters’ much younger years.

While this is not strictly on-topic, I also think of Graham Greene’s (very) short shocker of a story “Proof Positive.” Is Philip Weaver dead at the start of the tale? At the end of the tale? Or both? You can read it here.

What are your favorite works that start at the end? What are the pros and cons of literature with that kind of chronology?

Given that there might not be many examples of the above, you’re also welcome to name your favorite works that don’t necessarily begin with a concluding event but are non-linear (jumping back and forth through time via flashbacks or other narrative devices). Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five would be among countless examples.

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

206 thoughts on “Reverse Chronology in Fiction (Or Maybe This Headline Should Be at the End of This Post)

  1. Hi Dave, I’ve just received an email to notify me of your latest blog, and so it kind of feels like I’m writing this out of order, however the last week seems to have just run away from me and I haven’t found time to comment until now.

    I’m surprised that The Luminaries didn’t get a mention in this essay. While it doesn’t exactly begin at the end, its timeline is definitely not linear, and you do get that sense of ‘catching up’ to the ending. I don’t think that sentence makes the tiniest bit of sense, but hopefully you know what I mean.

    It would seem that I’m on my own with this one, but one of my favourite movies has always been Fight Club, which I recently read for the first time. I can’t remember whether the movie does the same thing, but the book very much begins with the ending “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die”

    I’m also reading the latest of Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles, and again, while it isn’t strictly speaking a story of reverse chronology, the structure of the novels is quite interesting. Her first book, which was also a successful movie, tells the tale of Louis, who meets Armand, who at 500 claims to be the oldest vampire. The next novel is the story of Lestat, the vampire maker of Louis, who knows A LOT more about Armand, and fills in some gaps from Louis’s story. It also tells some of the story of Marius, the maker of Armand, who is still ‘alive’, and obviously older than Armand. The third novel goes back even further, delving more into Marius’s past, and his knowledge of the first ever vampires, who were made 6,000 years ago. The current novel that I’m reading is kind of going back even further than that, exploring the history of the spirits that first invaded the vampires. The novels are all set in ‘real time’, but I’ve found it enjoyable to go further and further back into the history of Rice’s vampires with each new story.

    And as for my new favourite set of books, Song of Ice and Fire has some really weird timing and pacing. Add to that the TV series, which has a timeline which differs from the books, and I’m pretty confused. But unfortunately, I think that has a lot more to do with sloppy writing, rather than any creativity. It does however mean that I know how some things are going to turn out, even though they haven’t happened yet.

    On a non book tangent, I’d always wanted to watch Star Trek, and had the good fortune of dating a man who had all the series. Unfortunately the relationship ended just as I got to the end of The Original Series, and I’ve had trouble finding ways to watch it. However, I have managed to get up to Season 3 of TNG, which, unbelievably is about to be shown on TV here in Oz, so I’m happy about that. Of course I’ll get two or three episodes in, and they’ll take it off again. Pretty rude of my ex I think to not offer lifetime access to his DVD collection…

    And as a last little PS, I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve had 13 hours of deep and restful sleep since Saturday 

    Now onto Passing The Bar, which I think may include a Grisham reference or two. I’m so glad you’re enjoying him…

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    • Thanks, Susan, for the wonderfully wide-ranging comment! And I hear you about being busy. 🙂

      You’re right — “The Luminaries” could have been included in my column. Eleanor Catton’s fascinating novel was nonlinear in all kinds of ways. (And your nonlinear sentence about it makes total sense!)

      I never read or saw “Fight Club,” but it sounds like a STRONG example of something with reverse-chronology elements.

      Thanks, also, for your great discussions of Anne Rice’s and George R.R. Martin’s works. Sorry you’ve found the latter’s book/TV differences confusing in parts.

      Loved your paragraph about “Star Trek,” and the TV-related inconveniences of (never easy) breakups. I thought “The Next Generation” (my favorite “Trek” series) had a clunky first year, partly because of the scripts and partly because of the awkwardness of some actors/actresses as they got used to their roles. But when things clicked into place — wow!

      Yes, as you saw or will see, my new post includes John Grisham. I’ve only read three of his many novels so far, but I can see he is an excellent writer who makes readers want to turn pages VERY fast.

      Last but not least, congratulations on those 13 hours of rest! Raymond Chandler liked to describe that as “The Big Sleep”… 🙂

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      • Sorry Dave, I didn’t realise that my comment was even longer than your essay. I do tend to waffle once I get started…

        I’m surprised that no one I know has seen Fight Club. It might be one of those things that you had to be the right age at the right time.

        I’m really enjoying the later seasons of TNG. I wasn’t a big fan of Season 2, due to the ‘new’ doctor, but am very much looking forward to getting back into Season 3.

        I’ve read 5 or 6 Grisham novels, and while they don’t make my Top 10, all of them have been completely unputdownable.

        I also enjoyed reading The Big Sleep last year for my book club. I thought a lot of Chandler’s characters were simply good fun. And I’m glad I got to brag about my sleep yesterday, because last night it was back to randomly roaming the house at 2.30am and wondering what the hell is wrong with me. I don’t know how anyone could make getting 8 hours of sleep EVERY night sound so simple…

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        • Susan, I chuckled when reading your wry comparison of the length of your first comment to the length of my essay! (Raymond Chandler also wrote “The Long Goodbye” while you wrote “The Long Comment”? 🙂 ) But it was a great comment to read, and I didn’t mind the length at all.

          As you know, the doctor of the first “TNG” season returns in the third season, and Gates McFadden did seem to have better chemistry with the crew than Diana Muldaur did.

          I forget which “TNG” season Mark Twain ends up on The Enterprise, but that was a later highlight you’ll eventually see.

          Eight hours of sleep is something I also rarely experience. About the least simple thing to make happen when there’s so much to do and think about!

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  2. I am not sure if anyone mentioned the “Iliad.” The first line about “the story of the wrath of Achilles is basically the reverse plot of what got Achilles angry in the first place. And it does mention early on that it will only be about 10 days in a 10- year war between the Greeks and Trojans. Also, “the Aeneid” has some reverse plot characteristics to it, as well.

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    • Thanks, Eric, for mentioning the “Iliad” and “Aeneid”! You’re the first to do so, and both sound like great examples of having some reverse-chronology elements. (I haven’t read either; my experience with ancient literature is unfortunately rather thin.)

      Your mention of “reverse plot” made me think of two Jack London classics that are practically mirror images of each other. “The Call of the Wild” takes a dog/wolf from civilization to the wild, while “White Fang” takes a wolf/dog from the wild to civilization. It was London’s intent to flip things around so directly.

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        • Wryly stated, Eric! Interesting when some of an author’s most famous, “triumphant” characters are canines — though, as you know, London did also create a number of very memorable humans in novels such as “The Sea-Wolf” and “Martin Eden.”

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  3. Somewhat off topic, but some posters have mentioned “time travel” fiction. There is, of course, a real paradox with regard to time travel. The present exists, but traveling from the present to the past could change the present. The paradox is usually addressed in one of two ways: the present is indeed changed when a traveler goes into the past (“Back to the Future”), or – there are multiple parallel universes, that is – infinite universes exist – anything that can possibly happen does happen in one of the parallel universes, so traveling into the past and affecting it just puts the traveler into a different parallel universe (often used in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”).

    This brings me to “alternate history” fiction. One of the best examples is Philip Dick’s “Man in the High Castle”, where the protagonist find himself in a world where the Axis powers were victorious in World War II. He lives in the Western U.S., which is under the control of Japan, whereas the Eastern U.S. is under control of Germany. Interestingly, in this alternate world, there exists a popular novel that posits an alternate history in which the Allied Powers won. The alternate universe in this “novel within a novel” is not a pretty one – and results in a Cold War between the USA and Great Britain. The “infinite universes” are hinted at when the main character gets a glimpse of himself from a parallel universe that turns out to be the one we with which we are familiar.

    The book I am reading right now is Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America”. In this alternate history novel, Franklin Roosevelt is defeated in his third term reelection campaign by the popular Charles Lindbergh, who was drafted by the Republican Party and ran on the campaign “Vote for Lindbergh or vote for war”. Lindbergh is a very anti semitic Nazi sympathizer. The novel is from the point of view of a young Jewish boy from Newark, NJ. I am only 1/5 of the way into this book, but what impresses me is the fact that the author makes it seem that this possibility is not so far-fetched, and the rampant anti semitism of Europe could have easily affected American society.

    Dave – I usually like to post based on applying your topic to the book I am currently reading. Please forgive the tangential path I took to get there.

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    • Somewhat or a lot off-topic is fine, drb19810! 🙂

      Great thoughts on time travel, and the ways it might or might not alter history. Such an evocative literary genre (or TV or movie genre, in the cases of the beloved “Star Trek” and the fondly remembered “Back to the Future”).

      I’ve read a huge amount of time-travel fiction in my life, but little or no alternate-history fiction. (I realize they’re somewhat related.) Thanks for mentioning and skillfully describing two examples of the latter. Both now on my list!

      By the way, I borrowed Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice” from the library on your recommendation. Hope to get to it in about two weeks. I’ll let you know what I think!

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      • By the way, I have completed “The Plot Against America”. It was a compelling read, and very thought provoking, but the penultimate chapter was disappointing. Up to then, I was with Roth in believing that this alternate history could have indeed occurred. However, he wanted to have everything “return to normal”, that is lead to what we know to be true today, and this chapter kind of streatches to achieve that.

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        • Sorry a compelling book didn’t have a better ending, drb19810. Sometimes I think the hardest thing for a great author to do is to end a novel in a great way. I’ve experienced that in the past couple of years with otherwise excellent novels such as Anne Tyler’s “Ladder of Years” and “The Accidental Tourist,” Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper,” and Henry James’ “The Europeans” (though other James books I’ve read had much more satisfying endings). I still may give “The Plot Against America” a try, though!

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    • Sinclair Lewis wrote “It Can’t happen Here” in the mid-1930’s, another alternate history novel, describing the career of a charismatic and corrupted pol who pushes our politics in the right direction– far right. I read it maybe thirty years ago, and though I recall it’s a bit clumsy and caricaturish in ways I doubt Roth’s book could be, it was at least provocative and compelling.

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      • I guess I HAVE read an alternate-history novel or three, because I read “It Can’t Happen Here” and thought — as you say, jhNY — that it was flawed yet very good. Thanks for mentioning it!

        We’ve discussed this before, I think, but Sinclair Lewis has become a very underrated author these days. Novels such as “Babbitt,” “Arrowsmith,” “Main Street,” “Dodsworth,” and “Elmer Gantry” are excellent.

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        • Besides It Can’t Happen Here, I’ve read Babbitt, and for some years had a 1920’s copy of Arrowsmith in cloth cover, but I confess I ever got around to it, and now I’m not sure I’ve got it. I’m sure you’re right as to Lewis’ present stature, and I’m sure the same can be said, maybe even more so, about Theodore Dreiser.

          Someday, given time and opportunity….

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          • You’re right, jhNY — Dreiser doesn’t have the cachet he deserves these days. I only read two of his novels — “Sister Carrie” and “An American Tragedy” — but they were really good.

            My future wife was living and working in Dreiser’s hometown of Terre Haute, Ind., when we met — and I still can picture the little window display about the author in a Days Inn lobby!

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            • One fellow who thought much of Dreiser I would not have suspected till I leafed through Epitaphs of Our Times, a book of his letters: Edward Dahlberg, who had, throughout the collection, some pointed things to say about a great many more enshrined writers, including Joyce. Made me determined to give Dreiser another look.

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    • I have a memory of a book, or more likely a short story, that posited the idea of how a time traveler goes back in time, and how by stepping on a butterfly or something like that, he changes the entire path of mankind. Does anyone else remember this, or did I just make it up?

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      • I definitely remember that, Kat Lib, but can’t place it exactly. You didn’t make it up! I’m thinking maybe a Ray Bradbury story or novel? Pretty sure it was a sci-fi writer. I’d love to know, too. 🙂

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          • If you’re a fan of Ray Bradbury, you might enjoy the Ray Bradbury Theatre. It is a collection of films based on his short stories. If you click on my user name here, it will take you to my Twitter page where I posted a pic of a box set I purchased earlier this year. There are 5 DVDs and a total of 65 short stories in this volume, so that’s a pretty collection. Really good guest stars are featured too (Drew Barrymore, Peter O’Toole, William Shatner, etc).

            A Sound of Thunder is not one of the films in my volume, but someone on Youtube was nice enough to upload it from his/hers.

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                • This is such a great series. I really like the opening scenes for each episode where he’s looking around the office at his many collectibles.

                  Believe it or not, I found my volume at Goodwill for $5. Can’t believe someone would give that away. I want to get the rest of the seasons eventually.

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                  • That opening scene featuring Bradbury WAS great, Ana. He came off as kind of awkward on camera, but that made it more endearing.

                    It was also interesting seeing the more primitive special effects of the day (and I’m sure a TV series had less of a special-effects budget than many movies back then did).

                    Thanks again for the link!

                    Five dollars — wow. 🙂

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  4. Another wonderful book I thought about was “Out of Africa” by Isak Dinesen. Although the book is not a novel, I think it is a somewhat fictionalized account of her time in Africa. The first paragraph is:

    “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.”

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    • Isak Dinesen’s writing is so evocative. Thanks for mentioning it, lulabelleharris, and quoting from it! The looking back of the first paragraph is effective in many ways, including the melancholy of “had” — as in no longer having that farm. The reader is hooked immediately.

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  5. Two novels, each in its way and time a masterwork of American experimental fiction, feature the structural device of reverse chronology: Moby Dick and Absalom, Absalom!

    Though not fiction, though often more fiction than not, certainly every autobiography is literally written from that perspective.

    I associate reverse chronology with movies made in the 1940’s, wherein the chief character’s voice-over begins to recount how it all began, often with accompanying swirly optics, swelling music and a fade-in to a scene from the past.

    Perhaps that’s why, in musing over the week’s topic, the first thing that came to mind was a book that has for generations been more known for the 1940 movie made from it, produced by David Selznick, and directed by Alfred Hitchcock: Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca”. Here’s the first paragraph—

    “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again… I came upon it suddenly; the approach masked by the unnatural growth of a vast shrub that spread in all directions… There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand.”

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    • “Moby-Dick” is definitely written/narrated in retrospect, jhNY, and your mention of “Absalom, Absalom!” reminds me that I need to read more Faulkner — hopefully this year. 🙂

      Also, so true that autobiographies/memoirs are all reverse chronological in the sense that they are written “today” and recount the past. I took that a step further in my memoir by starting the book (after an introduction) with a 1983 chapter and then following that with a pre-1983 chapter covering many years before getting chronological again the rest of the way.

      Tremendous, very relevant thoughts about “Rebecca”! That approach to the narrative is classic — in many novels and movies.

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      • “That approach to the narrative is classic — in many novels and movies.”

        Yes, but I am surprised I’m not fonder of it than I am. I think I prefer the omniscient third-person narrator, who sees into all hearts and minds, at present, in the past, and in the future, such as one finds, with that famous first chapter exception, in Madame Bovary, in Stendahl (who nonetheless, out of authorly exuberance, occasionally inserts himself into things via commentary or footnote), and in one of my other hobby-horses you will one day read: Lampedusa’s The Leopard.

        Still, I have admired and certainly enjoyed books which employ reverse chronology– Absalom, Absalom! and Moby Dick are masterworks. I think nearly any structural strategy or plot device can work in the hands of the supremely skilled, and can seem clumsy and artificial in other hands.

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        • “I think nearly any structural strategy or plot device can work in the hands of the supremely skilled, and can seem clumsy and artificial in other hands” — you hit the nail on the head there, jhNY!

          With the right skills, an author can make almost any approach work. But as you note, the omniscient third-person narrator might be the go-to format easiest to make work. I also have an occasional fondness for the first-person narrative, which can be very engaging — and make the reader feel as if she or he is inside the character’s head. “Jane Eyre” is an obvious example.

          My local library never has “The Leopard”; one day I may use the remains of an Amazon gift card to buy it and a few other novels!

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          • I would argue that the first person is the most natural narrative voice to write out of– not that there aren’t drawbacks that come with the territory. Most people are used to writing about their own impressions and feelings, if they’re used to writing at all, and can pretend to be a character writing out of their habitual narrative voice with relative ease, which of course is not the same as ease. The limitation of insight, knowledge, etc. can act as a sort of structure for the voice itself, and being true to such a voice can be exhilarating and even liberating to a writer who otherwise might be overwhelmed by the demands of believable authorial omniscience.

            The notion ‘I was there, therefore you must believe me’ is implicit in the first person narrative voice, powerful and persuasive in itself– except I guess, in the case of the untrustworthy first-person narrator, when the reader’s belief will be sorely tried, if not destroyed, at last.

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            • VERY well said, jhNY! You gave the strong positives and the possible negatives of using first-person narration. If I’m remembering right, Nabokov’s highly original, sometimes hilarious “Pale Fire” is at least partly in the first person — and an example of the untrustworthy narrator you allude to in the latter part of your comment.

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                • Henry James was very skilled at telling a first person narrative from the point of view of an unstable, deluded or oblivious narrator. The governess in ‘Turn of the Screw’ is, obviously, a bit deranged and the ‘publishing scoundrel’ of ‘The Aspern Papers’ is completely clueless about the fact that he is manipulating people and even willing to marry someone just to have access to those precious ‘Aspern Papers’. In this sense, he pre-dates Humbert Humbert of Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ who marries only because it puts him in closer proximity to his beloved ‘Lolita’.

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                  • I never read “The Good Soldier,” jhNY. Would you recommend it or not?

                    Great mentions of Henry James, jhNY and bobess48! James was very skilled at a lot of things, and an “unstable, deluded or oblivious [first person] narrator” can’t be easy to create and sustain. Nicely put, bobess48!

                    On the flip side, one of my favorite “sensible” first-person narrators is the servant/housekeeper Nelly Dean of “Wuthering Heights” — in which she relates all kinds of crazy and passionate stuff in a rather low-key way.

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                    • Thanks, jhNY! I just put it on my list.

                      I know what you mean when it comes to recommending books read years ago. I will vaguely remember liking or loving a particular title, but have forgotten enough details to want to hedge my recommendation a bit. 🙂

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  6. Hi Dave … Hope you’re having a great week so far. Once again, a great column and a lot of great comments, and, once again, I have diddly-squat to offer 🙂 Lordy, I could have given such impressive responses 20 years ago, lol! Anyway, again, I love the nudge to my grey matter your column always gives me. One of these days I might actually remember some of the books I’ve read over the past 40 years and provide some articulate input. Have a wonderful rest of the week, Dave. I’ll look for you on Sunday 🙂

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    • Thanks for the kind words and the engaging comment, Pat! I hear you about how hard it can be sometimes to remember novels we read many years ago. In some cases, I’ve found Wikipedia invaluable for refreshing my memory. 🙂

      By the way, I finished “The Firm” a couple of days ago, and thought it was terrific! Thanks for recommending it! I’ll be mentioning the novel as part of my next column this Sunday night.

      Hope you’re having a great week, too!

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      • I have a similar problem Dave…so many classics i read in my teens or early 20`s when I was an avid reader then life happened , ( wish I did the same with my studies ) I don`t remember so many of them.

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        • I guess our brains can only store so much, bebe! And, as you say, life gets very busy. There are a handful of classics I remember many details of years later (“Jane Eyre,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Anne of Green Gables,” various Edgar Allan Poe stories, etc.), but many literary works become a blur after a while. Of course, the fact that I later reread all the works above helped me remember them… 🙂

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  7. Don’t worry, Dave, I am slowly coming back after the most whirlwind year ever. Talk about chaos and bedlam, but I’d rather talk about literature. I love a great chronology of events that not endly in reverse, but especially and essentially where plots end right back at the beginning. Nothing says that more than my old standby and favorite novel of all time, Huck Finn, where Huck has his adventures and his life comes full-circle back to home and his thinking to “light out for the territory.” I imagine Twain might have had an inkling to write about the adventures of Huck in the Indian Territories after, but no such luck.

    So after I detox from this place for a few more days….

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    • Hi, Eric! So nice to see a comment from you again! I figured you were crazy busy. Sorry to hear about that. Busy is good; too busy is another matter. 😦 “Talk about chaos and bedlam, but I’d rather talk about literature” — great line!

      Thanks for the interesting thoughts about “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” It made me think about how Twain used chronology and/or circling back in some of his other works. For instance, in “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc,” the Sieur Louis de Conte character who knew Joan tells the story of her life and death many decades after that death.

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    • Interesting approach, Claire — and very relevant to what we’re discussing! I’m not sure I would want to do that myself (I even avoid reading introductions or forewords until after I finish a novel, to avoid “spoilers”). But everyone reads differently, and if that works for you for some books — great! Thanks for the comment!

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  8. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is another book that started at some point other than the beginning, Quite frankly, with all of the footnotes, I was never able to make it all the way to the end, or if I did read the “end” I never knew it because I didn’t read the last third of the book.

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    • Thanks, Doug, for the comment and the mention of “Infinite Jest”! I’ve definitely heard that that novel is nonlinear (and long and not easy to get through).

      I’ve read David Foster Wallace’s nonfiction collection “Consider the Lobster,” and was very impressed with it.

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  9. ” My name was Salmon,like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973″. First sentence of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones,a real page turner and example,as many books and other mediums are in this genre,reverse chronology.

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      • lulabelleharris, I know what you mean! I thought there might be a reverse chronology in several novels I read years ago, but I couldn’t always check that if I didn’t own the books. I did a few “Look Inside” searches on Amazon, but the first chapter of a novel doesn’t always show up.

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      • The one thing that I do remember after reading “The Lovely Bones” is that I was totally unsettled and dissatisfied with the ending, Dave. I think I expected a resolution for her that I did not get. I don’t want to “spoil” this novel for anybody, so I won’t say anything else.

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        • I guess I had a different feeling about the conclusion. It was kind of low-key — no Jack Reacher-type revenge there 🙂 — but I thought a semblance of justice happened in a very subtle way. Like you, I hesitate to say more. One great thing about literature is how people can react differently to endings (or to the rest of a book)!

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  10. Hey Dave , Happy Paddy’s Day Eve to one and all. First novel that came to mind is a difficult one I’d not necessarily recommend unless your a fan of post modern hi jinx and lots of bad scatological and sexual humor. Times Arrow by Martin Amis opens with the protagonist Tod T. Friendly dying in a nursing home and travels from there to his birth in reverse order as told by Tod but without foreknowledge of his past to come. As he goes from feeble old man to healthy, from an American citizen to , presumably,a refugee in Portugal the reader becomes aware of foreshadowing that we are going some place ugly via narration that at times brilliantly approximates a movie in fast rewind. The payoff is Tod was a high level medical administrator in Auschwitz and here I think we get to the point of Amis’s structural conceit, as we see Jews ,Gypsies Etc. go from the gas chambers to the camps ,to the railroad cars and then back to their towns and villages one wonders if the author is somehow suggesting that upside down or in reverse is the only way to make sense of the enormity and inhumanity of the NAZI experiment? I’m not really sure but in the end I felt whatever point Mr. Amis was aiming for his odd and flippant treatment was not only unequal to the task but downright blasphemous . A shame because with a lesser topic and perhaps as a short story it could have been a cool idea.

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    • A happy St. Patrick’s Day eve to you, too, Donny!

      That Martin Amis novel, as flawed as it sounds, is a GREAT example of reverse chronology. Thanks for describing it so well, warts and all. From what you said about the book, I probably won’t read it, but it sure sounds intriguing. As you say, maybe a better idea than the reality of what Amis actually wrote.

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    • Haven’t read the Amis, but I have seen a Russian movie made in the last twenty years, whose title I cannot now locate, about the precarious terrifying existence of a boy and other peasants in a tiny farm community that has come to the murderous attentions of Invading Germans in uniform. After scenes of people being forced into a barn and immolated, children shot, and their corpses left in the middle of a dirt road, on and on, partisans arrive, the boy as I recall in their company. They capture a group of Germans and exert themselves vengefully, worked up to a righteous and uncompromising rage by the atrocities the Germans committed. The German fare as badly as you might expect.

      But at the movie’s end, the boy has a sort of vision, which resembles somewhat that Amis conceit, in which bombers in newsreels are flying backwards, their bays being filled from below by bombs returning to their racks, battleships coming back onto their skids as they return from the water, soldiers goose-stepping backwards row after row, etc. In the context of the movie, the effect was to me strangely moving, even beautiful.

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  11. Most of Alistair MacLean’s books can fit this week’s theme. When Eight Bells Toll, Ice Station Zebra, Night Without End, and The Secret Ways all have “big” introductions. The twists and turns throughout make his books impossible to put down.

    I really like MacLean’s writing style. Usually a major event at the beginning of a book can be somewhat of a letdown, but in his thrillers, the sequence of events in the middle chapters are just as exciting as the major introductions. If chapter one starts off with an ambush scene, you’d want to keep reading to find out who was behind the ambush and why.

    Kindred by another one of my favourite sci-fi writers, Octavia Butler, is a great book. It starts off with a young woman in the hospital with an amputated arm. There is suspicion of spousal abuse, but nothing could have been further from the truth. The young woman was afraid to tell the truth because she feared no one would believe her.

    What actually occurred was that the woman was being transported to the antebellum slavery period and was coming in contact with her ancestors. After being in that period, she’d quickly transport back to modern times, to her home in L.A. But everytime one of her ancestors was in trouble, she was transported back to antebellum slavery. It’s like she was chosen to intervene in certain situations, in effect altering her family’s history. During some of those transports, her present-day husband accompanied her. He also knew that if he told the truth about what was going on, no one would believe him either.

    I love almost everything Octavia Butler wrote, but Kindred is my top fav.

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    • Great comment, Ana!

      As you know, I’ve only read one Alistair MacLean novel — “Where Eagles Dare” — but was very impressed with it. A REALLY exciting thriller, with all kinds of double-crosses, as you also know. 🙂

      Octavia Butler’s book sounds amazing/depressing. Excellent description! I just put it on my list.

      Guess which novel I finally found in the library? Toni Morrison’s “Sula” — which you highly recommended a long time ago. I look forward to reading it!

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      • Take your time with MacLean. I hope your library has/will have The Secret Ways. I think you’ll like that one. I talked about it on your weather in lit piece. It is set in Budapest and has MacLean’s signature double and triple crossing. LOL.

        Don’t let the antebellum slavery angle in Kindred throw you off. This is a really intense book, especially the part that leads up to Dana’s (she’s the young woman I mentioned) dilemma in separating the past from the present because those lines became so blurred.

        Kindred reminds me of this time travel series that used to come on back in the day called Quantum Leap. Scott Bakula was cast in the starring role as a scientist. He traveled throughout history, never knowing where he was going, and what his roles were. I remember on episode where he leaped into the suffrage movement as a protestor, and one where he took on the physical form of an elderly Southern black man in the 1930s.

        Kindred has the same concept. Dana was chosen to go back to the 1800s everytime one of her ancestors was in trouble. But the unspoken question was “since I know what’s going to happen, do I intervene and change the course of history, or do I not intervene and allow these events to go on as planned?” I love this book. I hope you’ll enjoy it too when/if you ever get a chance to read it.

        Congrats on FINALLY getting Sula. Up next…Mules & Men.

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        • MacLean does seem to be the master of the double and triple cross, Ana. Makes one’s head spin, but in a good way. 🙂

          I’ve read a number of novels with slavery elements — “Beloved,” “Roots,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” “The Chaneysville Incident,” etc. They can be depressing as hell, but still WELL worth reading.

          And I just love time travel in books — even mediocre books! The question of whether or not to possibly alter history…few things are more riveting than that.

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          • A used bookstore that I frequently shop at receives shipments on Mon/Tues. A clerk that I’ve befriended is always on the lookout for the following for me:

            (1) anything by Richard Wright
            (2) anything by John Steinbeck
            (3) novels and poetry books by authors from Lusophone countries

            (4) anything by Alistair MacLean
            (5) anything by Margaret Atwood

            So I got a text this morning from the bookstore re: an Alistair MacLean title they got in that I’ve never heard of. It’s called Circus. I looked it up online. Sounds like a pretty good book, with the added bonus of the secret agent working in a circus as a psychic. I like vintage circus history anyway (especially the pictures), so I’m sure there will be plenty of those elements in this book.

            If your library has Circus on your next visit, you can’t check it out. I have to read it first, then you can read it once I’m done. Sorry, but that’s the law…

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            • Nice arrangement you have with that bookstore, Ana, and great that the clerk there found an Alistair MacLean title you weren’t familiar with!

              Ha! I promise not to read it before you do. 🙂 But I can’t vouch for what a bibliophile elephant might do…

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              • I’m off Friday, so I’ll pick it up then. I know I’ll start reading it the minute I get on the bus. Vintage circus elements and the super-talented Alistair MacLean all in the same book. This book was written just for me. You know what? I’m just gonna rename the book Ana. Forget Circus…it’s now Ana. LOL.

                See you later, Dave.

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                  • Throwback title. Last time I read that was during the John Steinbeck reading binge I went on after completing grad school (FINALLY had time to enjoy my personal library). I don’t remember too many details about it other than the infertility angle (the wife couldn’t have children, right??), so I could stand to read it again.

                    Tracked it down at the bookstore where I’ll be picking up my Alistair MacLean book. It’s in a collection of short stories…Travels With Charley and Later Novels, 1947 – 1962.

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                    • You may be remembering more of “Burning Bright” than I’m remembering, Ana. 🙂 I just recall the circus angle, and then suddenly the same characters end up in different professions — almost like alternate timelines.

                      Hope you enjoy the MacLean book!

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                    • Somehow clicked here when I meant to click there–

                      but as for those Reacher titles, Killing Floor is the first in the series, and is of course, a great place to start, not only because it’s first, but also because in it Child describes his strategies and decisions when he set about creating the Reacher character– with an eye to best seller success, which, on the first book and all following, he achieved. I found it fascinating.

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                    • jhNY, I would love to read “Killing Floor,” for the reasons you mentioned.

                      Lee Child is obviously a very focused, organized, marketing-oriented author who plotted his success and pulled it off spectacularly.

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                    • Thanks jh for the suggestion on where to start with my Jack Reacher books. It makes sense to start with book one of the series. I am sooooo tempted to start on Killing Floor this weekend, but I’ll behave and just place it on queue.

                      Dave, it looks like we both need to brush up on Burning Bright. Our homework assignment is to re-read it, then take a pop quiz. Don’t worry though…I’ll totally let you copy of my paper. LOL. Have a good weekend, guys.

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                  • You, bebe, jhNY, and a few other people have talked about Lee Child so much, and have given the Jack Reacher series such glowing praise, I felt that I needed to read at least one title for myself. So I emailed the young lady at my go-to bookstore and asked her to check their database to see if they had any titles available. There are three: Worth Dying For, 61 Hours, and Killing Floor. I told her to add those to my order, and that I’ll pick everything up this morning.

                    I’m breaking another literary rule: do not introduce a new author when I’m currently reading something from one or more authors. Right now, I’m reading Anne of Windy Poplars, Washington Square, and I’ll start in on Circus once I get it. But now I’ll have no choice but to work in Lee Child as well.

                    I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again…this blog is a bad influence on me. I was quiet, shy, timid, and didn’t violate any of my literary rules until I started posting here. SMH.

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                    • Funny last paragraph! I hear you, Ana — so much to read and so little time, but you’re packing a LOT of books into your schedule.

                      Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels are a real “guilty pleasure.” I just finished “Never Go Back” — and it was perhaps even a bit better than the other three excellent ones I read (“61 Hours,” “Worth Dying For,” and “A Wanted Man”). As I might have mentioned, I’m now reading one Reacher book a month.

                      I’m about to start Toni Morrison’s “Sula” — which you of course recommended 🙂 — today or tomorrow. I’ll let you know what I think!

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            • Lusophone! I figured out what the word refers to, but I confess I can’t remember seeing it before. Thanks for a new one!

              Guess I grew up in a semi-lusophone household, as my mother could speak and read Portuguese, thanks to her desire (thwarted by marriage and location) to become an interpreter at the UN. She fortunately mastered Spanish too, which, when she married my father, made it possible for her to speak to some of his relations, as well being a handy means of saying things in front of us kids that we couldn’t grasp.

              When I was a little boy, my family moved to Colombia for about a year. There, I learned Spanish, but only because no one I could find outside my own family spoke English. Upon arriving back in the US, I refused to speak Spanish, and eventually lost the language, although sometimes I think I dream in Spanish. All I’m really sure I’ve got left is my pronunciation– I’ve been told I have a good accent.

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              • It was pretty much a requirement in my household to speak (in this order) (1) English (2) Portuguese and (3) Crioulo. When we lived in Boston, my mom used to get our reading materials from this bookstore that carried books in multiple languages. Crioulo is not really recognised here in the States, so our mom wrote these little stories to help us learn the language better…cute little stories about dragons, princesses, etc.

                We go to visit my grandmother in Cape Verde every 5-6 years. During the long layovers in Lisbon, I make sure to hit the bookstores located near whatever hostel I stay in. Some books like Diary of Anne Frank and The Catcher in the Rye, I’ve only recently read in English because I read the Portuguese editions first.

                So wonderful that you got exposed to another culture at a young age. I can tell you have an international background/influence. And just because you no longer speak Spanish does not mean all aspects of that language are completely gone because things like that never leave you. How are you in Portuguese? Are we gonna have to start communicating in that language:)

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                • My Portuguese is non-existent. I am, besides that accent and a word or ten of Spanish, monolingual.
                  But I am the son of a man who can read and write in German and Spanish, besides English, and he is the son of a man who could read in German, Spanish, French and English. (I think I see a pattern of diminishing linguistic skill).

                  But I grew up in an international sort of household, my father being half-Austrian and half Mexican, and university professor (Latin American history). His great friend when I was in my twenties was a Latvian mechanic, and after him, a Hungarian biochemist. And my father was born here in NYC,and had friends among the Russian emigres here in the 1930’s, as well as German-speakers and the small Mexican community here at the time…. He also taught the first class of young people who joined the Peace Corps.

                  On the Brazilian front, one of his colleagues was a man whose grandfather had fled to Brazil, a Confederate general, who like a few other such die-hards, had hoped to take over someplace, raise an army and return to free the South from freedom. My father’s colleague moved here from Brazil as a young man, in pursuit of education. His specialty, naturally enough, was Brazilian history. I remember he owned a 1928 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost that he could never drive, being a university professor who could not afford the cost of parts.

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                  • I must ask again…why aren’t you writing, teaching, or lecturing somewhere?? I could sit and listen to your stories for hours. Such a life you’ve had…not too Americans can honestly say they knew a Latvian mechanic and a Hungarian biochemist in their lifetimes.

                    Many, many thanks for the Astoria suggestion. I found a small Portuguese restaurant in Queens. They serve a variety of grilled sardines, which are popular, affordable street foods in Lisbon (the unspoken rule is to save your euros for the more expensive meals, and snack on grilled sardines throughout the day while walking around). So it’s great that the Queens restaurant has these on the menu; it will remind me of Lisbon.

                    I forwarded the details of the restaurant (and a nearby Brasilian club) to my siblings, and they approved. You were indeed a big help. I knew you would be, and that’s why I asked you in the first place:)

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              • jh, I have a quick question for you. Lots of bi-coastal squabbling going on between me and my New England siblings on where to eat during my one day stay in Newark this summer. We want something with Afro-Portuguese style and flavour. Places that my brothers recommend, I’m not interested in and vice-versa.

                I’m tempted to just stay in the Ironbound district in Newark and call it a day, but my brothers insist on taking a day trip to NYC. Can you recommend any good Brasilian/Portuguese/Afro-Portuguese/Iberian restaurants and/or clubs in the NYC area? I’d greatly appreciate it.

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                • I’m not qualified, really, as I am mostly a homebody who eats in local spots– as in a block or two away from my apartment. Ad in my neighborhood I know of no such place.

                  But a few (five?) years ago, when I was regularly recording in Astoria, Queens (right across the river from Manhattan), I noticed Brazilian place or two. I’d chance that’s a neighborhood with at least a bit of a Brazilian population– maybe you could do a search of Astoria on the internet for Brazilian restaurants and clubs.

                  Wish I could be of more use.

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  12. Hi Dave, I first thought of a novel I’ve mentioned several times before, “Life After Life,” by Kate Atkinson. The first chapter takes place in 1930, in which Ursula is attempting to shoot Hitler, then goes back to her first birth in 1910, when she dies, then she is born again and lives a little while longer, then on and on, the chapters going back and forth in all of her alternate lives and deaths. Much of it takes place leading up to and during WWII. It’s fascinating, and I found the storytelling to be masterful in her ability to go back and forward in time, without being totally confusing for the reader. There are many novels I read, especially in the crime/thriller genres, which start with a prologue, then either jump forward in time, but in many cases go in the reverse and explain the events leading up to what happened in the prologue. For example, although not a crime novel, the book “Three Wishes,” by Liane Moriarty has a prologue in which triplets are celebrating their birthday at a restaurant as they always do (with three cakes!), when others relate how seemingly out of the blue, one of the sisters throws a fondue fork at one of the others, lodging in her fully pregnant belly. Then it goes back about a year earlier explaining how events transpired to bring them to this point. Interspersed throughout are people relating anecdotes of the times they had seen and been entranced by the triplets (2 identical, 1 not) throughout their growing up years. After reading this description, it sounds pretty awful, but it’s actually quite funny and all ends well.

    Then there is the opposite of that, in which a novel that I was reading recently, was having two women alternately narrate their “meeting” and becoming “friends.” It’s been getting a lot of good reviews, so I won’t give the name of the book, because [major spoiler alert], the two women are rushing to save the one’s young son from drowning in a pool, the other to stop her, and the what I thought was a chapter ends with “…” When I turned the page and it came to the acknowledgements, I was taken aback and ready to call B&N because I thought the book I’d downloaded onto my Nook was defective. Ha, but no, that really was the end of the book, and I felt cheated to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Life After Life” sounds like a GREAT book, Kat Lib, and aptly titled! Thanks for the excellent summary and the interesting thoughts about it, about “Three Wishes,” and about chronology/non-chronology in literature.

      I looked for a Liane Moriarty novel in my local library last week, but none were there. 😦 Hopefully next time. Your description of “Three Wishes” reminded me a bit of Margaret Atwood’s “The Robber Bride,” in which three female friends meet in a restaurant before the story jumps back in time to chronicle how each of them was hurt by the same woman. Then the story returns to the book’s present, after which events take place that are subsequent to the initial restaurant meeting.

      Sorry the ending of that other book you mentioned was abrupt and disappointing.

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      • Another time-bending book was “The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I just went over to Wiki to refresh myself on the plot, but I don’t really know how to encapsulate into a few sentences what it’s all about. It was interesting to note that many reviewers weren’t sure whether to classify it as science fiction or as a romance. The author herself didn’t think of it as sci-fi, but she did say she based her couple’s romance after that of Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey.

        My thinking about this book and topic reminded me of the “space-time continuum” in Star Trek, and of the many great episodes where characters traveled back in time, as well as my favorite of the movies, “The Voyage Home,” where they go back to present day Earth to save the whales and the earth itself. Which brings me to how saddened I was by the death of Leonard Nimoy earlier this month. Mr. Spock was a great character, and from everything I’ve read, Nimoy was a great person as well.

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        • Glad you mentioned “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” Kat Lib! Such a wonderful (and sad) book — and, as you know, VERY nonlinear. Numerous jumps to various points in time. The novel really captured its Chicago setting, too.

          The “Star Trek” TV series and movies did indeed offer many fantastic space-time-continuum stories! I totally agree that “The Voyage Home” was the best “Trek” film (for me, “First Contact” with “The Next Generation” cast was second).

          I also totally agree with what you said about the great Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock. Real-life and fictional icons.

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          • Sorry for the double “book” in my first sentence and the extra period in the last. I know you’ll find this difficult to believe, Dave, but at my last job before retiring, I was the official proofreader for a newsletter put out by an association I belonged to. Few of the contributors were well-versed in spelling and grammar, so every draft issue had plenty of red marks from me. Too bad I am much better at proofreading others than I am of my own writings! 🙂

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            • I just fixed those two things, Kat Lib. It happens to us all, especially when we’re looking at our own writing! I copy-edited and proofread my memoir countless times (the small press that published it didn’t want to make the effort and I couldn’t afford to hire someone), but I still missed a few things. Luckily I was able to correct them in a second printing.

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      • Thanks, Ana, and I agree that the email exchanges were LOL, The triplets (and I keep wanting to say the three triplets, which is redundant) have a bond that most sisters don’t experience. I have two sisters, but one is ten years older than I and the other is four years older. They have a problem getting along while I am the one in the middle, not a good place to be.

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        • That’s something else we have in common. I too am the middle child. Two years separate me from my big sis; ten years separate me from my little sis. I shared a bedroom with my big sis growing up, so we were always close. By the time our little sister became of age, we’d already left home for college/careers (my older brother did too), then I left the U.S. and briefly lived in East Africa, so we had to kind of…”rediscover” and bond with her more over the past few years. And it tickles me to refer to her as my little sister because she’s bigger and taller than I am:)

          I love authors who create books that have those family dynamics readers can relate to.

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  13. I think I’ve mentioned the novel “Bid Time Return” by Richard Matheson. That little-known novel was made into a movie called “Somewhere In Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. I must confess that I haven’t read the book, but the movie opens with a beautiful old lady walking up to Christopher Reeve, giving him a pocket watch, and saying “come back to me”. He then takes a holiday and goes to a hotel where a portrait hangs of a beautiful woman who was a turn of the century actress who had stayed in that hotel. He falls in love with the portrait, begins doing research, and discovers that the turn of the century actress IS the old lady who walked up to him. He DOES find a way to “come back to her”! It is a most compelling story. Enough said!

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    • Richard Matheson was a terrific author, and I very much want to read “Bid Time Return.” Definitely a strong example of reverse chronology in lit. And, lulabelleharris, you wrote a great summary of that novel and its movie version! The film must be especially poignant to watch now, given what happened to Christopher Reeve.

      The plot line you describe reminds me a tiny bit of the “Titanic” movie, with the very old Rose appearing in 1997 before the 1912 story of the young Rose unfolds.

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      • A book I finished last month (Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters by Logan Marshall) included some details I’d never read before. One of America’s most prominent families (the Vanderbilts) had a connection to the Titanic. A grandson and his wife were scheduled to be on board, but cancelled their plans at the last minute for fear that something would go wrong since that ship had never traveled before. The family servant who originally took their luggage to the ship got word at the last minute that the Vanderbilts were not sailing, but he stayed on anyway. His body was never recovered.

        Another group of Vanderbilts created a makeshift hospital to care for the Titanic survivors who were placed on the Carpathia rescue ship.

        I tucked that little historical tidbit in my knowledge bank. I’d like to explore that topic a little while I’m in Nashville. Vanderbilt University was named after the family because of the 1 billion dollar endowment given by, I believe, Commodore Vanderbilt. I’m sure I can find a little more info in some archives on Nashville/TN history…maybe in a museum or on campus.

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        • That’s really interesting information about the Titanic, Ana. I didn’t know about that Vanderbilt stuff. Good luck finding out more in Nashville! Great that you’re always seeking new knowledge!

          Of course, there was an Astor on that ill-fated ship (though not related to me; my immigrant paternal grandfather anglicized his name or had it anglicized for him). I remember sitting in a movie theater watching “Titanic” with my older daughter back in 1997, and she and I looked at each other and chuckled when Kathy Bates as “Unsinkable” Molly Brown shouted “Hey Astor!” at that bigwig on the boat. 🙂

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          • I’m thumbing through my book now. At the end, there is a roster with names of survivors and the deceased.

            John Jacob Astor? His pregnant wife Madeleine survived.

            Confession time, Dave: did you break out and sing My Heart Will Go On at any time during the movie? You can tell me; I won’t laugh. Ok, I will laugh, but I’ll do it quietly.

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            • Ha ha! That was funny, Ana! I did/do like that poignant song, as sappy as it is in some ways. 🙂

              Yup, John Jacob Astor — one of the “1%” of his time. But at least some of those rich guys stayed with the sinking ship — showing more courage than the “1%” guys now who, say, push for wars they and their children will never fight in.

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              • This Titanic roster in my book reads as a “Who’s Who” in 20th century American aristocracy. But one fact that was pointed out was how quickly the barriers between rich and poor broke down during rescue efforts. Wealthy women were in the life boats grieving the loss of their husbands/brothers/fathers the same way poor immigrant women were.

                And I totally agree with you. Some of the 1% men of yesterday were definitely more stand-up and honourable than the ones of today. People like ole Dick “I never met a deferment I didn’t like to avoid military service” Cheney have no problem leading others to their deaths and dismemberment.

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                • Yes, “Five Deferments Cheney.” So evil even Hell won’t let him in when he dies. 🙂

                  So true about the “Titanic.” Major class differences, but class differences often narrow at least a bit when tragedy like that happens.

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                  • 5?? Really?? I always thought it was 3 (not that 3 is any better, but I didn’t know it was more than that). Wow. Next month, the American Experience series on PBS is running a documentary called Last Days in Vietnam. It should be required viewing for those who are beating the drums of war with (insert Middle Eastern country).

                    Just read a news article this morning on the latest budget proposal from the Senate. Cuts to Medicaid and the food stamp program, increased spending for the military. No money to feed middle and low income working families, no money for healthcare, but plenty of money for war toys. Sad.

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                    • Yup, five. 😦 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/01/politics/campaign/01CHEN.html

                      If Cheney had been against the Vietnam War, I could understand it, but he was for it. So, basically, he was just gutless and figured some poorer person could die in his place.

                      Great advice about viewing that documentary! “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” and all that. Of course, even if the vast majority of people are against involvement in a war, if the rich and powerful want it, they get it (without sending themselves or their kids).

                      Re your last paragraph, some Congresspeople (mostly GOP but some Dems) are just the lowest of the low…

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                    • Hi, Ana, I don’t know if you ever saw any of my comments about my favorite brother, who was one of the first CO’s who went to prison for refusing to go serve in a combatant role in the Vietnam War (he was willing to go as a medic, but that was not approved and he spent 18 months of a two year sentence in prison). So you can just imagine how I feel about those who got deferments for being someone with money or political connections. My brother only lasted a few years after getting out prison before he took his own life. Sorry to bring this column down by this story, but it is something that I’ll never get over, and I don’t want anyone to forget how brave he was.

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      • You are right, Dave! The older Rose is why the story works so well. I just can’t wrap my head around the plot in “Bid Time Return.” It’s a “never-ending story”. He meets the old lady (whom he doesn’t know), falls in love with her portrait, THEN goes BACK in time so that he can meet her. SHE doesn’t know HIM, and he must woo her until she falls in love with him. Then he accidentally departs to the present.

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        • I agree, lulabelleharris! The older Rose is absolutely crucial to the movie, and gives the film even more of an emotional wallop.

          And, yes, some of those time-loop things in fiction can give one a headache even as we’re fascinated with them! It’s been a while since I read Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward,” but I think there was some mind-bending thread about the traveling-into-the-future protagonist meeting a female descendant of his who of course wasn’t born until decades after the protagonist would have been dead. And there’s the “Back to the Future” plot of Marty McFly meeting his mother and father in the past before they even were in a relationship.

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    • Lulabelleharris, “Somewhere in Time” is one of my favorite movies, I cried buckets when I saw it and it can still bring on a “sniff-sniff” attack. The beautiful sound track added much to the emotional reaction, it fit the story and each scene so perfectly. I had forgotten about the fact that the movie was based on a book by Richard Matheson, always meant to read it – thanks for reminding me! I’ll add it to my must-buy list .

      Liked by 1 person

      • I need to do that too, Clairdelune! I watch that movie every time I have an opportunity. The music IS amazing. The only other music from a movie that moves me like that is the music from “To Kill A Mockingbird”. I consider that music a masterpiece by Elmer Bernstein!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Just a memory flash..highly talked about the critically acclaimed Movie ” Momento” a series in black-and-white that is shown chronologically, and a series of color sequences shown in reverse order.
    I remember while in KS went to see it is an art theater one afternoon by myself ,,darn no any movie theater close by now in OH..then again hardly any watchable movies are coming around

    Liked by 1 person

    • Black-and-white chronologically and color in reverse chronology — wow, that’s intriguing, bebe!

      I miss those art theaters. I guess there are a few still around, but nowhere near as many now that one can easily see films at home. When I lived in Manhattan many years ago, I was near “The Thalia” theater on the Upper West Side. They showed great double bills of old movies; I saw about 20 Hitchcock films that way, among other movies.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I started posting on HP Brasil to see if the level of ridiculous moderation was the same on that site as it was on the U.S. edition. Last summer, I was looking for a book title mentioned in one of Dave’s articles that I’d commented on. I didn’t want to bother him about digging through his numerous articles, so I checked my own post history to see if I could find the article myself.That’s when I noticed most of my posts from HP Brasil were gone. Some of my comments from HP Canada were gone too

          So it didn’t matter if I posted in English or Portuguese, my posts were still getting removed and/or queued for several hours and days. That was the last straw, and the end of my posting on HP.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ana, so frustrating that HP drives people crazy in various languages and various countries! Holding comments for hours or days, and/or deleting them — it’s disgusting and insulting. Many people (such as yourself) worked hard on those excellent comments. The deleting may often be because of bandwidth or incompetence (in addition to bias or timidity), but it still all seems rather Orwellian.

            Liked by 1 person

          • That is horrible Ana…why they do that I don’t know. I do FB with family and close friends and I will never give that kind of privacy away to a ll places like HP.
            But again i don`t miss…Dave doesnt post there, Cara also stopped posting so what for ? I wonder now if they got rid of the moderators completely.

            Liked by 1 person

              • Well, I certainly left Huff Post, because of the Facebook debacle. I do have to say that one of the first times I went to a Broadway show over 20 years ago, we were standing outside the theatre waiting for our bus, and an air conditioning unit fell out of a window and hit a few people in our group. Dave, was that you?? 😉

                Liked by 1 person

                  • Very funny, Dave! I still go over to HP every day, because they do give the news from a somewhat liberal perspective. I was amused to read that our favorite lady announced that she is working with Oprah.com to present an online course on how to “thrive.”. Do you think we could all go together and get a discount to sign up for this course…I just don’t find myself “thriving ” enough! 🙂

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks, Kat Lib!

                      And SO funny — your remark about that “thrive” thing. AH definitely needs to write another book so we can stop hearing about “thrive” and start hearing some new buzz words from her. Perhaps “permanent laryngitis”?

                      Like

                    • It is sad…how puffanna slithers her way in and out of different programs… I watch Bill Maher in HBO…he never shies away calling a spade as one. But somehow ..those two have a weird friendship…and she was there pretending to be an open minded liberal…without batting an eye..and was getting cheers from the audience.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • You got it exactly right, bebe — so many TV appearances, and Bill Maher and other hosts who should know better rarely ask her tough questions. It was upsetting when all the stuff HP did to its readers barely merited a peep from most other media outlets. Perhaps partly because most of those other outlets are also owned by big corporations and “one percenters” who also treat their audience (and employees) like dirt.

                      And your mention of how she pretends to be a liberal is spot-on. True liberals don’t just talk like a liberal, they act like one with their employees and audience. Such hypocrisy.

                      Liked by 1 person

            • Here’s something else I don’t like. When you “like” a HP user’s comment now, that user will show up on your FB under the “People you may know” feature. I don’t know those people, and don’t want to know those people. I simply liked a comment…that’s it. I don’t want to add them as a friend.

              My FB page is only for playing the occasional game. There’s little to no activity on there. My posts, pics, and everything else are on a family-only private page on Instagram, and the women in my family have a private page on Pinterest as well.

              This marriage between HP and FB is weird. It’s like they are determined to make users/strangers connect with each other whether they want to or not.

              Liked by 1 person

              • That HP and FB connection is indeed unfortunate, Ana — for the excellent reason you mentioned and for other reasons as well.

                It’s of course all about money. I assume FB is paying HP/AOL a lot for the connection, and I also assume HP was able to cut costs by laying off all or most of its moderating staff — putting a bunch of people out of work while HP/AOL bigwigs continue to rake in the cash.

                Like

                • It was a profitable company before the changes, so the layoffs were completely unnecessary.
                  Sheesh…how much more money do they need??? Nothing wrong with making money, but this obsessive greed is…I don’t even know how to describe this.

                  HP and FB. Talk about a match made in hell.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Your comment nailed it, Ana. I just don’t morally understand why most very rich people want more, more, more — which usually means less, less, less for people who really need the money.

                    Like

                    • It’s a power trip. Money of course is a motivating factor, but the uber wealthy are driven by power and accomplishment.

                      Take Mitt Romney for example. His desire to be president has nothing to do with wanting to lead the country. Winning the presidency would be a feather in his cap Everything that he’s desired, he’s received. He’s done it all. Becoming the leader of the free world would be the biggest accomplishment in his lifetime.

                      Losing to President Obama was a blow to his ego. Despite their wealth, social status, and fame, people like Romney won’t ever be satisfied because there will always be that *one* thing they haven’t conquered.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I was thinking along similar lines only last night, but came to a slightly different landing spot.

                      Seems to me there’s a sea change that occurs among the wealthy the moment they mostly decide they will no longer mainly be in the business of acquiring wealth, but will be mainly in the business of preserving what they’ve got.

                      So long as such a one is active in pursuit of more, he might be reasoned with on the subject of tax rates, since it can be demonstrated easily that higher taxes, or at least no massive tax cuts, prime the general economy. Proof usually comes in the form of actual increased wealth during Democratic administrations.

                      But once a wealthy person retires from active acquisition, the chief aim of all his efforts is wealth preservation. No new taxes.

                      Sadly, older earners and retirees have been shouted at for decades as to the imminent insolvency of social security, or at least, its inadequacies. So they have learned to take whatever they can for themselves, regardless of larger societal costs.

                      Our generation, the largest ever to retire around the same time, includes that portion of us that is the 1%. Many in that rarefied bunch have given much money to pols and the party that will not tax them. They fear scarcity, despite having it all, and cannot be persuaded. After all, the plan is to build a wall of money someplace and keep out everybody but the help.

                      What does it matter if the policies that enforce their will cause great hardship and discontent? They’ve got theirs, and they will keep it, though at the occasional price of having nightmares about crowds of poors brandishing pitchforks and torches.

                      Then they wake up. The sun is shining. It’s a great day for the beach.

                      Until younger acquirers of wealth have more political power than those seeking to preserve what they have, social policies won’t radically change, except for the worse, because tax policy won’t change. There is no left left, so change will have to come from within the upper class on the volition of that class. Given that fact, what we need is a rebirth of that 19th century notion, noblesse oblige. It’s the best we can hope for.

                      Meanwhile, the bosses jokes are always funny.

                      We have met the enemy, and he is us– Pogo.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Interesting points about greed and wealth preservation, jhNY, and elegantly expressed.

                      I’ll obviously never get a chance to test this, but if I ever had a million or two in the bank, I wouldn’t care about making more and wouldn’t do retrograde things to preserve all of it. Heck, if I lost half, I’d still have $500,000 to a million! 🙂

                      Like

              • Oh I am really tech challenged..so don`t even understand instagram / pinterest..and don`t even want to try. When I go to HP i make sure I don`t “like” any comment. I do use FB that`s where I connect with family and close friends. I never accept any unknowns..that says trouble to be.
                I am totally amazed Ana by your intellect..in so many aspects…love it

                Liked by 1 person

                • *blushes until I turn apple red* Thank you for the nice compliments:)

                  Not “liking” HP posts will cut down on strangers’ profiles popping up on my FB page, so that’s what I’ll do. My family used to have a FB page, but everyone shifted over to Pinterest and Instagram once I made that move. Both of my grandmothers LOVE Pinterest. They post the most beautiful nature pics, and I enjoy seeing them interact with each other. Those two ladies are just too adorable.

                  And it’s great that you keep your page private. Some people thrive on getting as many friends as possible, then want to turn around and blame social media when they engage in destructive behaviour. It is possible to have a level of privacy on social media and remain safe; I do it, you do it, and so do many other people.

                  I hope that Pinterest and Instagram don’t go down the same road that HP has. No merging, no “forced relationships” with FB…just leave things as they are.

                  Liked by 1 person

  15. Good Morning Dave…now all I could think of was the long running and very popular series ” Columbo” starring Peter Falk as a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department .
    The story format always begins by showing the crime and carrying out of the crime by the assassin. So the series has no “whodunit” element.

    Even then the two hour long series was always a highly anticipated show when the the cigar smoking ” Colombo” with his long dirty rain coat appears
    to keep the audience in suspense and the perpetrator will finally be caught and exposed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good morning, bebe, and thanks for the interesting description of “Columbo”! I don’t know why, but I never watched that iconic show — though I’ve heard lots about it.

      Big news: My local library had “The Lowland”! So I’ll be reading that Jhumpa Lahiri novel soon! Of course, I also borrowed another Jack Reacher novel ( 🙂 ) — “Never Go Back.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi bebe, this is great! I thought I was an odd duck because I like Star Trek, the movie “Somewhere in Time” and the old TV series “Columbo” – and here are I found three people with whom I share a liking for all the above, in addition to our shared liking for Dave!! Peter Falk became the quintessential disheveled, underestimated brilliant detective, just as Jeremy Brett became the quintessential Sherlock Holmes, and David Suchet became Hercule Poirot. It’s hard to accept anyone else in those roles.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Hi Clairdelune oh my word…huge fan of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, not so long ago they had the reruns of the series and now again started on David Suchet as Hercule Poiro. No we all all odd ducks together…all these are now classics.
        You do remember very young Jeremy Brett as love sick Freddy in My Fair lady I am sure.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hi Bebe, I haven’t watched “My Fair Lady” in ages, and I certainly didn’t know Jeremy Brett was in that. I’ll have to check that out one of these days. By the way, I loved your and Dave’s comments about “Puff Po.” I’m still giggling over them hours later!

          Liked by 3 people

          • Oh he was the very handsome Freddy…

            LOL..she was dressed in huge , longer million dollar outfit..looked out of place odd in the morning show, not a single stress mark on her face and sleeps soundly 8 hrs a night..no stress at all obviously for exploiting others.

            Liked by 1 person

              • OK..comments all over the place. Guilty pleasure, this morning I went to the site where I hardly visit just the check on yesterday`s CBS appearance. Sure enough ..10 comments, 9 negative. Looked again now 11 comments…oh my… 😀

                Liked by 1 person

                • bebe, great that she’s getting the “respect” she deserves in comments. 🙂

                  I just see two comments there now — one sort of positive and one negative. I wonder if the other negative comments were deleted? The rich like to protect each other! Or maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.

                  I’m so sick of her blabbing about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep when her policy of zero pay for bloggers forces them to lose sleep making money elsewhere — or forces them to lose sleep worrying about making money elsewhere.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Dave, I find her inane comments on getting a good night’s sleep and meditation are not helpful to those who need to have two or three jobs in order to put a good meal on the table of his or her family. I shake my head at those who don’t understand how difficult it is for those who don’t have the resources that people who have money do.

                    Liked by 2 people

                  • Exactly…Look media, then below with out of place white jacket for the early morning show..and comments are there.
                    People are losing sleep worrying about what not and the simple solution for her….keep all the electronic gadgets outside and there you go for 8 hrs solid sleep every single night. I don`t even remember when the last time I had that amount of solid sleep.
                    What is unfortunate she is flourishing exploiting others.

                    Liked by 1 person

            • Bebe, I had to check that he actually sang that song, especially since Hepburn didn’t. What was especially funny was that this clip had a foreign language spoken, then the song came on, with perfect English accent.

              Liked by 1 person

      • Clairdelune, I don’t think I ever saw “Somewhere in Time,” bur in addition to Star Trek, I loved “Columbo.” I don’t know if you remember a short-lived TV series called “Mrs. Columbo,” wife of the detective, who is a reporter and solves crime. It starred Kate Mulgrew, who became much better known as Captain Janeway on “Star Trek: Voyager.” I know that’s probably the least popular of the various Star Trek series, but I liked having a female captain, and there were some interesting characters, such as Seven of Nine and The Doctor. My personal favorite was “The Next Generation.” I also totally agree with you about Peter Falk, Jeremy Brett, and David Suchet. I’ve never been able to watch another character play Sherlock Holmes; Brett was perfection. I have all of those series and movies on DVD, as well as all of the Poirot ones with Suchet.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I also loved “Voyager,” Kat Lib, and Kate Mulgrew as Capt. Janeway was great! As were most of the other “Voyager” actresses/actors and their characters — including that holographic doc.

          My favorite “Trek” show was “The Next Generation,” too — helped immensely by Patrick Stewart’s stellar acting as Capt. Picard — but “Voyager,” “Deep Space Nine,” and of course the original series were all terrific.

          Like

          • Yes, Dave, there was no one better than Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard. When I was much younger, I was in love with Captain Kirk, but Patrick Stewart aged much better than Shatner, and far surpassed him in every possible way. There was something good about all the captains of the Enterprise, or Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew, but no one ever matched Jean-Luc Picard, and the British accent didn’t hurt!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Oh yes..Patrick Stewart is the best..and with his facial bone structure he does not showhave any signs of aging. I might start watching them in BBC America they run the series.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Patrick Stewart does indeed look tremendous for his age, bebe! Being bald might help, too; no gray hair to see. 🙂

                I haven’t watched “Next Generation” episodes since the series ran from 1987 to 1994 — except for YouTube clips here and there. It would be a great fantasy to spend a week doing nothing but watch them again!

                Like

                  • For that terrific “Star Trek” show, I could probably handle all that watching, bebe. 🙂 Actually, I videotaped many of the episodes back in the day, but I not only don’t have a VCR anymore but most of the tapes got ruined when my (former) basement flooded during Hurricane Irene in 2011. The Borg couldn’t conquer Capt. Picard’s crew, but water did. 🙂

                    I think gray hair looks fine on both men and women, but it does make both genders look a bit older… 😦

                    Like

                    • Try BBC America.. they show the series certain times of the evenings.
                      On grey hair i beg to differ…looks great on men and on women too, but salt&pepper on women perhaps not so…my opinion only 😀

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • The BBC and Patrick Stewart — perfect together! I really should watch an episode or two, in whatever way.

                      Gray hair is definitely a subject many of us have views about, myself included. 🙂 One interesting possessor of that look is the columnist Heloise, who had gray hair when I first met her despite her being only 32 or 33. It worked/works for her! But it’s more uniform, not salt and pepper!

                      Like

                    • Who am I to say…my hair perhaps one tenth grey..so I started highlighting a couple of years ago, before that never dyed my hair 😦
                      One example..

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • You’re speaking as someone in his late 50s/early 60s. Let me give an opinion as someone who is not in your age group: gray hair does not make people look older.

                      There’s this phrase in urban culture that goes “shuttin’ it down”, which is used to characterise people who excel in talent, style, looks, swagger, intelligence, or whatever the case may be. Please believe me when I say I have seen and personally know silver/gray-haired people who are shuttin’ it down in the looks department…they look better and more vibrant than some folks in their 20s and 30s. It’s more than just hair though. Bad attitude and personality can make a person seem older than what they really are.

                      Ana has much respect for older people. *fist bump and high-five for the 50+ crowd who are doing their thing, and refuse to let their chronological ages and gray hair “age” them*

                      Liked by 1 person

      • Bebe, Clairdelune,

        I ADORED Peter Falk in Colombo. The writers for that show were brilliant! It is being played on Sunday evenings on a TV network called Memorable Entertainment-TV, or ME-TV. It’s not on my cable. It’s on my antenna. I watched it last night! I think my favorite episode is the one with Faye Dunaway. It’s hard to pick. I loved the one with Ruth Gordon too! Or the one with Janet Leigh. I could go on and on. I believe Patrick McGoohan did at least 3 different episodes!

        Liked by 2 people

        • That is fantastic lullabelle…oh Ruth Gordon was absolutely a great actor, I remember seeing her in one of the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movie. Her facial expressions were simply priceless.Thanks for reminding me of her. That`s a thought our Public Library carries them. Tomorrow i am going to look for them for sure.
          The library shelf has all the new released movies and not a single one I am interested to borrow.

          Liked by 2 people

  16. Dave, I can’t think of any additional books, but the movie “Tangled” starts with brief narration that has Eugene saying something like “Let me tell you how I died.”

    I rather enjoy it as a literary device, it can lend a lot to a story. My wife says that it sucks and she doesn’t want to know anything before the event happens in order.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a way to start a movie, GL! Guaranteed to catch one’s interest. You reminded me a bit of Robertson Davies’ “Murther & Walking Spirits,” whose protagonist dies early in the novel…and continues to narrate things.

      I enjoy reverse chronology as an occasional literary device, but can also see your wife’s point of view. It almost goes without saying that it depends on the story and the writing ability of the author.

      Thanks for the interesting comment!

      (On another subject, it was very sad to hear of Terry Pratchett’s death. I know you’re a big fan of his work.)

      Like

      • I’ve been traveling so couldn’t respond until now.
        Yes its does have a lot to do with the author’s ability. It works well when they’ve got it and ruins a book when they don’t.

        On the subject of Terry Pratchett, I was at Disney World when I got the announcement. So I cried a little, at the “happiest place on earth,” for a man I never met but who had touched my life in such a profound way.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hope you had or are having a good trip, GL!

          Sadly ironic to hear bad news at a place people visit to be happy. We DO feel close to favorite authors we’ve never met. I guess part of that is because authors put so much of themselves into their novels that we’re actually acquainted with them in a certain way.

          I haven’t forgotten to try Terry Pratchett (or Neil Gaiman’s) work at some point.

          Like

    • Creepy is the word, Clairdelune! And I agree — VERY well written, with just enough (but not too much) of a hint of how it would end. It felt like reading some weird, amazing hybrid of Edgar Allan Poe and W. Somerset Maugham!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Dave! I’m not sure if Proust’s “In Search of Time Past” would qualify for reverse chronology, but having read all of it, I recall a lot of shifting around in time once the scent of madeleines gets things going. I wish I had the time and energy to read it all again, it gave me such pleasure. Of the books you listed I could only recall Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome”. If I remember correctly, Peter Hoeg’s novel “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” starts with the death of a little Inuit boy, then during the investigation Smilla recalls the events leading to that time.
    By the way, the story “The Lady of the Camellias” or “Camille”, was used for the libretto of the opera “La Traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi. I saw two versions of the opera staged by different directors, in one version the opera starts with Camille on her death bed, followed by the events that led to that point, and another version instead used a linear unfolding of events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve only read part of Proust’s opus, Clairdelune, but I agree that it’s certainly nonlinear. Great that you’ve read it — that’s not an easy achievement!

      “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” has come up several times in comments over the past year or two, from several people. I must read it in 2015!

      Impressive that “The Lady of the Camellias” inspired so varied a roster of spinoffs — a famous opera, a play, and many movie versions. Interesting that one opera production made the story chronological; I thought having the end at the start was very effective in the Alexandre Dumas (fils) novel.

      Thanks for the excellent comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave, it did take me over a month to read Proust’s opus t especially since I was reading it in the original French (in later years I also read the English translation). Some parts were a little slow, but overall I really liked it, perhaps because like Proust I find that scents, tastes and sounds can release a flood of old memories.
        I think you will like “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”. I admit that I am not too fond of many modern writers and prefer the classics or at least not quite 21st century, but I did enjoy Peter Hoeg’s book partly because of its police mystery aspect, but it is so much more than that – psychological thriller, a well-crafted story, a glimpse into Inuit culture: there is much to learn, which is always a plus for me. Never knew that there are so many different words for snow depending on its texture, flake size, etc. I have always been entranced by the fleeting beauty of a snow flake, but must admit that more than one white inch on the ground at any time but Christmas feels like karmic punishment for sins from a past life. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Actually, over a month is pretty impressive, Clairdelune. 🙂 Proust’s evocative work could understandably take MANY months for some excellent readers to finish. How different an experience was reading “In Search of Lost Time” in French vs. English?

          It sounds like “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” works on several levels! And, yes, snow is a mixed thing: beautiful and…VERY annoying.

          Thanks for the eloquent comment!

          Like

          • Reading Proust in French was much more satisfying – there is something about his prose and the narrative itself that is better suited to French than English, just as Shakespeare is best read in English, most translations are good but the flavor isn’t quite right — like eating an Italian pizza topped with Japanese seaweed instead of cheese…( I’m not crazy, I did eat such a thing in Japan!) 🙂
            My love of literature is what drove me to become multilingual in the first place, I wanted to read Shakespeare and Federico Garcia Lorca and Balzac in the original languages to find what was lost in translation.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Makes sense that Proust in French would win out, Clairdelune! And the original language of any book would seem to have an advantage.

              “Fusion” food can be quite interesting (I was just at a great NYC “vegan soul food” restaurant yesterday with my daughter), but it doesn’t always work. Pizza with seaweed does sound like an offbeat combination. 🙂

              Your love of literature driving you to become multilingual — absolutely wonderful!!!

              Liked by 1 person

            • I’m very impressed that you are multilingual, and that you read Proust in two languages. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I only can speak one language, and I gave up on Proust after just a few pages. Perhaps now that I have more time on my hands, I can do both of those things. My preference as far as a second language would be Swedish, the language of my ancestors and I could read all of the Swedish books by crime writers from that country. When my two girlfriends and I traveled in Europe in 1969, we arrived in Calais from the ferry from Dover, and we immediately forgot how to say the name of bathroom in French, so we were reduced to basically using sign language. The policeman or whatever he was in a uniform, looked confused until he finally realized what we were asking, and said, “Oh, un pee-pee!” He then directed us to the nearest restroom; while funny, it was embarrassing for all of us who had studied two to four years of French. BTW, Dave, I was one of the others who recommended “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” for all the reasons mentioned by Clairdelune.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks, Kat Lib, for having also mentioned “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”! Will try to read it before this winter’s snow is a distant memory. 🙂

                (I also only got a little way through Proust, but I would love to try again one day.)

                Like

          • I’m one of those people that took five months to read all of ‘In Search of Lost Time.’ Even though there are new translations available, I still bought the complete set on Kindle for only $2.99 or something like that in the same C,K. Scott Moncrief translation. He died before translating the last volume and someone finished it but I still find the writing very beautiful so when/if I ever re-read it I will probably stick with that same translation. Don’t know if it would take me any less than five months to read it again. Who knows? BTW, Scott Moncrieff’s life is interesting in itself. There’s a bio of him that came out last year: http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Lost-Time-Moncrieff-Translator/dp/0701181079

            As he was the first person to translate it into English I assume that just about everybody that didn’t already know French read his translation. As for me, English was enough of a struggle. If I ever do learn to read French I’ll probably start with something less challenging.

            Liked by 1 person

  18. Although it’s been a few years since I read it and I don’t recall many details I do know that William Styron’s first published novel, ‘Lie Down in Darkness,’ is told in reverse. We already know at the beginning about a young woman’s death. I believe the character is in town for the funeral (?) but it backtracks and explains everything that happened just before that and then what happened before that and so on all the way to the beginning of the girl’s rebellious upbringing, something like that. The flipping back and forth in time of ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ is also shared most notably in Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’ where the idiot Benjy literally trips back and forth in time based on free association with earlier points in his life. The second section, told from his brother Quentin’s point of view, occurs before the ‘present tense’ thread of the first section and, of course, before Quentin’s suicide, which pre-dates the present tense events of that section. The third section, the other brother Jason’s tale, takes place pretty much just before the events of the first section. The final section, third person by Faulkner through the central intelligence of Dilsey, the loyal house servant, is told just after the first section. Confusing enough? Well, that novel is a pretzel, literally looping back on itself. It’s the most extreme example of Faulkner’s time traveling device and is the literary equivalent of what Quentin Tarrantino did in his notable film, ‘Pulp Fiction’. Of course, any tale that is narrated by somebody that tells about past events is, in a sense, reverse chronological. Conrad’s ‘Lord Jim’ is a prime example, where the narrator, seaman Marlowe, tells the story of Jim and does some weaving back and forth through time. Ishmael’s narration of ‘Moby-Dick’ is of course done retrospectively as ‘I alone am escaped to tell thee’ as he says at the end. Time is a pretty flexible and elastic fictive device, one of the most durable and dependable of tools because of how it can inform and determine how we read and interpret what happens in a story or novel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Brian, I’m impressed with how many books you named; I was having some trouble remembering enough examples or reverse-chronology lit — which explains why I wrote one of my shortest columns ever. 🙂

      I know we’ve discussed this before, but I couldn’t get far into “The Sound and the Fury” despite two attempts. I WAS impressed with Faulkner’s “Light in August,” and want to read more of his work.

      I’ve never gotten to William Styron’s “Lie Down in Darkness,” but have read his “The Confessions of Nat Turner” and “Sophie’s Choice,” and both are told in looking-back fashion.

      “Moby-Dick” — of course! Totally in retrospect.

      Thanks for the eloquent comment, including its great last line!

      Like

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