This Julian Barnes book is about attitudes to death, especially for atheists like himself. Near the end he ponders on how writers’ books are a kind of immortality – but is it? The Earth will eventually be engulfed by the Sun (about 6 billion years) and NASA probably still haven’t funded a Mars mission let alone an escape to another solar system along with the world’s digitised creative works. Barnes knows his books won’t be read forever – there are so few Homers around – and has this to say, which amused me a lot (though my wife found nothing risible so be warned).
“… At some point there will be a last reader for me…And then that reader will die…
My last reader: there is a temptation to be sentimental over him or her. Indeed, I was about to make some authorial gesture of thanks and praise to the ultimate pair of eyes to examine this book, this page, this line. But then logic kicked in: your last reader is, by definition, someone who doesn’t recommend your books to anyone else. You bastard! Not good enough, eh? You prefer all that trivial stuff in your superficial century. I was about to mourn your passing but I’m getting over it fast. You’re really not going to press my book on anyone else? You really are so mean-spirited, so idle-minded, so lacking in critical judgement? Then you don’t deserve me. Go on, fuck off and die. Yes, you.
I shall myself long since fucked off and died…”
As I write this, Julian Barnes is still alive but his short book Nothing to be Frightened of (note the deliberate ending with a preposition) is packed with anecdotes and interesting philosophical thoughts. ISBN 978-0-099-52374-1