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A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth Paperback – March 18, 2021
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*Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2021**
From Daniel Mason, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Winter Soldier and The Piano Tuner comes a collection of interlacing tales of men and women as they face the mysteries and magic of the world.
On a fated flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever. A telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the middle of the Amazon. A doctor is beset by seizures, in which he is possessed by a second, perhaps better, version of himself. And in Regency London, a bare-knuckle fighter prepares to face his most fearsome opponent, while a young mother seeks a miraculous cure for her ailing son.
At times funny and irreverent, always moving, these stories cap a fifteen-year project that has won both a National Magazine Award and Pushcart Prize. From the Nile’s depths to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, from volcano-wracked islands to an asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, these are lives of ecstasy and epiphany.
Frequently bought together
- Publisher : Picador; Main Market edition (March 18, 2021)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 1529038502
- ISBN-13 : 978-1529038507
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 6.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.12 x 0.67 x 7.76 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #212,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Mason moves from the life of a 19th century boxer to ancient Egypt, to the jungles of Brazil to France in the time of ballooning in the early 19th century. There is a story set in the South Pacific during the pursuit of the “reality” of evolution using a non-fictional person as lead; another where a man, a doctor, feels his life being subsumed by another (? better) man. There are magical moments, hints of (or more obvious) madness, stark reality, or perhaps alternative reality. So much to read and feel. I am writing this just after finishing the book, with the impact still resonating.
I also recommend reading the author’s afterword. It explains some things about his background that I did not know, which, I believe, are likely powerful influences on his work. It and the acknowledgments also explain the reality behind the titular final story.
Very highly recommended.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Born a winter child in the Bristol slums, in the quayside heap known only as “The Rat,” Jacob Burke, who would come to battle the great McGraw on that fateful day in 1824, was a son of the stevedore Isaac Burke and the seamstress Anne Murphy.
Seventeen rounds of physical battering as this boxing match is shared so vividly, you can sense the tension, feel the sweat being slung around as bodies are battered and tossed around this ring, hear the jeers and cheers and see it all.
In 'The Ecstasy of Alfred Russel Wallace' a British collector of fossil, flower, beetle, stone, even as a child, a story that follows his life in the Malay Archipelago. Nature filled him with an ecstasy that at times felt like lust.
"Sometimes, during the night, she wakes to a presence, a creature sliding through the darkness, watching, waiting to descend. She doesn’t dare to look; to move even slightly is to risk waking the child, and it’s for him she knows the ghost has come." This story, On Growing Ferns and Other Plants in Glass Cases, in the Midst of the Smoke of London is a story of a mother and her son.
A Frenchman responsible for maintaining a lone railway station in the Amazon rainforest, with little connection to the outside world is the focus for 'The Line Agent Pascal.' "For the truth was that, however distant his colleagues were, he’d come to understand them intimately over the years, could describe each man, each station, with details he had never seen." He knows Pinto who is at Varzea Nova from his requests for medicine, knows he has a wife and daughter and that Pinto has lumbago, and similarly, he knows the men at all the stations, the ins and outs of their lives. Much like we come to know each other on social media, through the details shared over time.
In 'On the Cause of Winds and Waves, &c' a woman, Celeste, is an aeronaute, a balloonist who writes her sister as this story begins, ”…something has driven me skyward … Even my baptismal name has felt like some hint of destiny." She shares her story of a flight where she ascends higher than anyone else had, when her eye catches a 'strange vision', a 'tear, a rent in the firmament'. Her husband, Pierre, seeks to capitalize on this while scientists disbelieve, and so she is sent back up – this time with a man who is sure to be more rational, believable.
'A Registry of My Passage upon the Earth 'is shared through letters, reports, a journal-ish sharing of a life. "Beginnings. 22.December.1938 Midnight, accompanied by seven angels on clouds shaped like a stairway, they left me at the house, at the base of the walls. Sao Clemente Street.number.301.Botafogo.Rio de Janeiro, I alone with lance in hand." This is shared in a foggy dream-like, hallucinogenic quality, by a man whose attachment to reality is somewhat tenuous, shared through his writing, he shows his delusions, obsessions and strangely beautiful thoughts. "Here I register the 9 ways man walks toward things and the 11 ways he flees."
I haven’t covered all of the stories, there are nine in total, but all are worth reading, even if they are not equally captivating. In each story, you will find yourself in a different place, time and find yourself pulled into the life of another person, perhaps in a different place or time, but each will leave you thinking and, if you’re like me, enchanted. This was my introduction to Daniel Mason’s writing, and I look forward to reading more.
Many thanks for the ARC provided by Little, Brown and Company
These tales contain themes of obsession, compulsive behaviour, wonder, doubts and fears, epiphany, and the search for knowledge, truth and understanding.
The 9 short stories are about: a desperate mother whose son is sickened by the heavy pollution in Victorian England, a muscular young bare-knuckle fighter, a doctor suffering from memory lapses during which his body is overtaken by a better version of himself, a female balloonist who believes she sees something during an ascent which angers the scientific community, a deranged data gatherer in an asylum, an immigrant participating in civil way enactments to prove his patriotic zeal, a ruler in ancient Egypt conducting bizarre human experiments, a solitary telegraph operator in the Brazilian jungle, and an insect collector in jungles of South Asia and South seas whose theories coincide with those of the more renowned Darwin.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for this interesting and memorable ARC.