Sunday, June 11, 2017


Many accomplished contemporary writers can suck us into their worlds through the first page, efficiently introduce their characters already in full gallop then wow us with their style, vocabulary, observations and deep thoughts. But they rarely leave us time to look around the space they’ve created, to examine what and with whom we’re dealing before the story hustles us along. So much is thrown at us so fast that we feel a bit bludgeoned, somewhat overwhelmed by action, sometimes smothered in solipsism and often overtaken by claustrophobia. 

ANTHONY DOERR doesn’t do any of that. The Pulitzer-prize winning author is one of those rare people who seems to have maintained a child-like curiosity and wonder about life despite his education and adulthood. He creates wide, spacious worlds full of light and air and his characters, seen from afar at first, are slowly brought into focus, as is the story. He uses short sentences and simple but unexpected words with occasional anthropomorphisms that make the text twitch. He believes the right details in the right places will convince his readers of what he’s trying to convey. And does he ever use details. Not lists of them à la Joyce Carol Oates or screeds of empty adjectives but pulsating nouns and verbs that create images writhing with color and textures like a Goghian painting. Cypresses seethe, roots prowl, helicopters ratchet, fountains roar and stars burn.  A myriad details are tossed on to the page like confetti. We assemble the details into the mosaic he wants us to see. We read like Seurat paints, our senses aquiver with dots of sights, sounds, smells, textures and flavors as the story moves us along at the speed of an eyeball. There are no boring bits to skip.

Doerr is one of the few writers who can also shock you into stopping and going back to re-read a passage to make sure you read it correctly.

In FOUR SEASONS IN ROME he writes about Romans’ acceptance of death:  “I agree to live now, live as sweetly as I can, to fill my clothes with wind and my eyes with lights...” 

And he does lovely slow endings too, gliding us down to a soft landing as if he doesn’t want to stop writing, just as we don’t want to stop reading. He wraps up the story but
continues to reveal a few more things that keep us in his world just a little longer. It’s the reluctant parting of lovers.

These quotes are mostly from FOUR SEASONS IN ROME which I started reading immediately after finishing ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE because I didn’t want to leave his worlds or words.

Books, writers, authors,