I discovered the English writer, Julian Barnes, in 1984 with the publication that year of Flaubert's Parrot, and I haven't stopped reading him since.
In the past decade, Barnes seems to have become almost as consumed with growing old, old age in general and contemplation of death as I am and he has been writing about them in powerful ways so beyond my attempts that I may as well be living on a lesser planet. I recommend them all:
The Lemon Table - short stories about growing old (2004)
Nothing to be Frightened Of - essays about his ancestors, real and imagined, and their contemplation of death (2008)
The Sense of an Ending - novel of a middle-aged man forced to confront his past (2011 – Man Booker Prize)
Pulse - another brilliant short-story collection some of which touch on age and grief (2011)
Last week, I re-read Barnes' 2013 memoir of the grief he has lived following the death of wife of 30 years, literary agent Pat Kavanaugh. You wouldn't think the first two sections of Levels of Life – on 19th century ballooning and on Sarah Bernhardt – would have anything to do with that. You would be wrong.
The book is unforgettable - stunning achievement, beautiful, intense, heartbreaking, eloquent, profound and shattering.
I am telling you this today because as I returned the paperback to the shelf, I discovered a hardback edition. Huh? Blame it on old age memory, I guess. Apparently I bought the soft cover without checking my unread books pile.
So one of you wins today. As we have done in the past, let me know if you are interested in owning Julian Barnes' Levels of Life.
You can do that in the comments below by typing, Yes, I want the book. Or, Count me in. Or, Me, me, me. Or however else you want to indicate your interest.
The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and I'll mail off the book to you. The deadline for comments is 12:01AM Pacific Daylight Time on Friday 29 August I'll announce the winner in this space on Monday 1 September.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: You Can't Stop a Laugh