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Book 35

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
  3. Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)
  4. Ryman, Geoff — 253 (366 pages)
  5. Wyndham, John — The Day of the Triffids (267 pages)
  6. Kurkov, Andrey — Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
  7. Chesterton, G.K. — Orthodoxy (183 pages)
  8. Gibbs, Christopher H., ed. — The Cambridge Companion to Schubert (334 pages)
  9. Sendak, Maurice — Where the Wild Things Are (48 pages — though only 1 page will count towards my tally)
  10. Hurston, Zora Neale — Their Eyes Were Watching God (215 pages)
  11. Clarke, Arthur C. — Rendezvous With Rama (245 pages)
  12. Clarke, Arthur C. — The City and the Stars (246 pages)
  13. Chesterton, G.K. — The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (205 pages)
  14. Tepper, Sheri S. — Beauty (468 pages)
  15. Slawson, Douglas J. — Ambition and Arrogance: Cardinal William O'Connell of Boston and the American Catholic Church (186 pages)
  16. Belloc, Hilaire — The Great Heresies (166 pages)
  17. Waugh, Evelyn — Brideshead Revisited (326 pages)
  18. Rawicz, Slavomir — The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom (278 pages)
  19. Junger, Sebastian — The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea (309 pages)
  20. Seth, Vikram — An Equal Music (486 pages)
  21. Dubus III, Andre — House of Sand and Fog (351 pages)
  22. Kurkov, Andrey — Penguin Lost (251 pages)
  23. Bradbury, Ray — Dandelion Wine (247 pages)
  24. Bradbury, Ray — Farewell Summer (209 pages)
  25. Doran, Jamie and Piers Bizony — Starman: The Truth behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin (241 pages)
  26. Makine, Andreï — A Life's Music (106 pages)
  27. Barnes, Julian — A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (307 pages)
  28. Chaucer, Geoffrey — The Canterbury Tales (623 pages)
  29. Pushkin, Aleksandr — Eugene Onegin (Vladimir Nabokov, transl.) (351 pages)
  30. Lowry, Malcolm — Under the Volcano (387 pages)
  31. Fadiman, Anne — Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (132 pages)
  32. Grimwood, Ken — Replay (266 pages)
  33. Barrie, J.M. — Peter Pan (246 pages)
  34. Stanislavski, Konstantin — An Actor Prepares (315 pages)
  35. Wolfe, Gene — Peace (265 pages)

Page count: 9292.

Just days before Christmas, I wanted something appropriate to the season. I also wanted, with the year rapidly coming to a close, something easy to read that I could be sure to finish before the year ended. The first piece of Peace, recounting a Christmas spent in the South, had me thinking I had scored thematically. However, the writing style was at times as impenetrable as Malcolm Lowry's, and I feared it might take forever to read. As my reading progressed I confirmed that I batted .500 on my assumptions but was dead wrong about my first-chapter impressions: this story might be more appropriate to Halloween than Christmas, but the prose became much more readable after the first twenty or thirty pages, as one got used to the constant time-shifting.

Peace is, supposedly, the memoirs of Alden Dennis Weer. He exists at some level in the future, though it is never quite clear on what plane his existence takes place. As he recounts his life, he jumps back and forth to various not-necessarily-connected events. Gradually, we start to develop a sense of who Mr. Weer is not only from the recounted events, but through what and how he chooses to tell us. It also becomes clear from the onset that Mr. Weer might not be the most reliable narrator. "Facts" occasionally contradict each other; seldom is a story finished, more often than not suspended just prior to its climax (In fact, the novel itself seems simply to run out of pages without any sense of concluded story arc.); timelines and episodes are bungled together seemingly carelessly; and Weer seems to have an inordinate obsession with death, ghosts, the exotic/bizarre/fantastical, and the supernatural. The overall effect is to create a sense of timelessness, hauntedness, disorientation, and unsettledness that belies the book's title.

My initial impression when I finished the last page, sensing how anticlimactic and incomplete it felt, was "What the—?!" I can't claim I fully understand what happened at all. But the more I mull over it, the more Wolfe's intent and accomplishment becomes apparent.

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