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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

The final haunting moments of Reading in the Dark, and a guess at the meaning of the title

Some final words on Seamus Deane's excellent and under-appreciated Reading in the Dark (1995): Among its unusual aspects is that at the outset it appears to be a series of short essays that taken in sequence constitute of coming-of-age story about the protagonist, beginning in 1945 when he's about 5 years old, in a Catholic family in Northern Ireland during the "troubles." As the novel progresses, however, a plot emerges, and by the end we're engrossed in the complexity of the plot - a series of secrets that the narrator learns about his family history but that for various reasons he cannot discuss w/ either of his parents. The plot requires our attention but it never overwhelms us, leaving us free throughout to appreciate the beauty of the language, the eccentricity of some of the characters in the narrator's community and neighborhood, and the beauty and strangeness of some of the interpolated stories - all concluding w/ a harrowing set of final chapters, as the narrator looks back from a somewhat more mature vantage, age 30 or so, escaped from his Northern Ireland home community and embarked on his life, recollecting the death of his parents, the secrets about the death of his uncle Eddie, a suspected informer, and his mother's possible complicity in that death, still unspoken, a burden weighing on all of them and carried to the grave (though perhaps - if these chapters represent a true family history of the author, or even a version of same - with some alleviation for Deane through the process of writing this novel). Having completed reading the book, right down to the final haunting image that the narrator sees or envisions, I remain a little puzzled by the title: who's reading in the dark? I suspect that may be us - reading this tale of family secrets and betrayals, or a country at war with itself - picking up clues along the way as best we can and struggling to see the light.

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