If there’s one thing that makes me a somewhat peevish reader these days, it’s the weedlike way some books have grown (Freedom, “Twilight,” and “Dragon Tattoo,” I’m looking at you), seemingly without the careful pruning and nurturing of an editor. Relentlessly repetitive imagery, endless superfluous information, charmless language choices—the content just goes on and on.
Which is why it was such a joy to encounter The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes a few weeks ago, with its beautiful economy of language and loving restraint. Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye is another such book—although it wasn’t as revelatory for me as Barnes’s book, the gentle but insistent tidiness of the text wrapped up a direct and pithy story in under 200 pages. It’s not that I have any problem with a longer book, it’s just that some longer books I’ve read lately (Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you) are such exceedingly lengthy forced marches, they are more to be endured than to be read. Every once in a while, I appreciate a book that shows up, says what it has to say, and then bids a fond farewell.
Having said that, here’s a little tidbit from The Beginner’s Goodbye. It’s a scene that comes after Aaron, who is both a widower and an editor, has just been introduced to Louise, a fellow editor with whom he hoped a spark might ignite. It’s a little wink and a nod to the editorial sensibility (although not an altogether flattering one). Enjoy!