NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy: you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com.
Most personal nonfiction is addressed clearly outwards; as if the writers need the assurance of public eyes to validate their experience. One thing I quite liked about this book was how internal it was: it's like eavesdropping on a conversation Barnes is having with himself, attempting to console himself of his existential fear of death. I go through phases of grappling with the very same questions--is there a God? what is death?--and found this book to be a genial retread of many of my own hamster wheels, with the added bonus of neat (if navel gazing about the meaning of death & existence can ever be neat) quotes and anecdotes. Alas, there are no answers, but who would go into such a book expecting any? I am actually devoutly grateful that Barnes never does have an epiphany; it would profoundly disrupt the sense of internal conversation, of good-natured anxiety, that makes this a surprisingly worthy little read.