Metroland

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“Metroland” by Julian Barnes
(First publication: 1980; This edition: Penguin Random House, Special Archive Edition 2016)
Taken during a morning coffee break at Castello Coffee Co. in Edinburgh. Loved that place, loved that almond croissant

So maybe I did love her?
I certainly never saw her again. (pg.143)

I’ve read two other novels by Julian Barnes: “Levels of Life” and “The Sense of an Ending”. I don’t remember what drew me to “Levels of Life”. I remember getting it in Kinokuniya one day—an impulsive purchase. I read it and didn’t feel all that much for it—I don’t remember much about it aside from that I was reading part of it on the slow train to Narita Airport to pick up a friend. I remember that it made me feel kind of sad, but I don’t remember why.

Shortly after that, my high school philosophy teacher recommended “The Sense of an Ending”. I ordered it immediately and tackled it right away. Same with “Levels of Life”, I vaguely remember anything about it—except that it made me feel kind of sad, but I don’t remember why.

Both of them were pretty dull for me.

SO. Why did I even consider getting a third book by Barnes?

I was at Foyles in London. It was my third and final visit to Foyles. I fell in love with that bookstore. And you know that feeling when you’re sad that you’re running out of time and you don’t know when you’re going to get to go back there and that it’s such a special place and you think you should get a little something from there so you can remember it (even though you had already bought books from there on previous visits) and there’s this urgency to just get something, anything?

The “Signed by Author” sticker at the front got me.

Even though there were also signed copies of Zadie Smith’s “Swing Time” and Ian McEwan “Nutshell”, I got this one because it was the “lightest” of the three (my suitcase was already overweight).

Kind of a shame.

Because I didn’t enjoy this book all that much.

It was alright.

Finished the book with a “…..meh. Okay. Finally.”

It wasn’t horrible. I just felt like it was dragging and nothing too exciting or interesting was happening. It’s similar to how I felt when reading “The Sense of an Ending”. The story centers on a guy, from his adolescent years to his bachelor years to his family years. It goes through the things he learns and realizes, about himself, people around him, and the English and French societies. Usually I like these types of stories—where you see the progress a person makes throughout his/her life—but this guy was just not a likable character. I felt like he was just complaining and judging everything. He was just… this teenager full of angst and hatred for people.

It’s kind of like how I felt when I was reading “The Cather in the Rye”—I hated Holden Caulfield because his negativity and his angsty behavior just made me so tired. Thus, I did not like “The Catcher in the Rye” at all, even though many would claim that it’s the best book ever.

Like I said, it wasn’t horrible—but I don’t think I’d read it again or would recommend it to anyone. There were a few moments when I considered just dropping it, but just kept pushing on thinking it would get better. It did, towards the ending—when all that angst and negativity mellowed out.

Will still treasure the book though—a signed book from Foyles = 🙂

…..

Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:

Well, what about the simple question, again, do I love her?
Depends what you mean by love. When do you cross the diving line? When does je t’aime bien become je t’aime? The only answer is, you know when you’re in love, because there’s no way you can doubt it, any more than you can doubt when your house is on fire. That’s the trouble, though: try to describe the phenomenon and you get either a tautology or a metaphor. Does anyone feel any more that they are walking on air? Or do they merely feel as they think they would feel if they were walking on air? Or do they merely think they ought to feel as if they are walking on air?
[…] There were many thoughts as I sat down with the key in my hand.
So maybe I did love her?
I certainly never saw her again. (pg.143)

We wanted scenes, things, people, as if filling one of Big Chief I-Spy’s little books—but our book was not yet written, for it was only when we saw what we saw that we knew we were looking for it. Certain things were ideal and unattainable—like walking in spectral gas-light across damp cobblestones and hearing the distant cry of a barrel-organ—but we hunted jumpily for the original, the picturesque, the authentic. We hunted emotions. (pg.29)

I don’t remember it like that. It all seemed remarkably static. Each year new curricular were fed us, which closely resembled the old curricular; each year a few more people sirred us; each year we were allowed to stay up a bit later on Saturday evenings. But none of the structures changed; power and irresponsibility resided where they always had; the levels of love, awe and resentment remained the same. (pg.57)

 

 

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