Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

A Novel

Book - 2017
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Comments (62)


Oddly composed of snippets of this and that, but I'm still at the beginning and a bit derailed by the over-the-top lavish state banquet, with all the exquisite confections and entrees, on the same night that Willie dies.

Later: Those who speak are in neither heaven nor hell, but caught by their own unsettled minds where their remains are buried. Stubbornly self-engrossed and unresolved, they find Lincoln's presence a very welcome respite. But demons dwell there too. A compelling work that still stays in my mind.

Kris--PR Library

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talk2terih
Jun 13, 2018

As Salieri said of Mozart's music in the film Amadeus "This was something entirely new."

Every now and then, a piece of art emerges that forces to rethink how we define that particular genre. Picasso, Pollock, Manet, Seurat, all put forth paintings in styles previously unknown, e e Cummings caused us to view poetry in a new way, and as Salieri observed, Mozart gave us music that was entirely new.

With this book, George Saunders has expanded our definition of what constitutes a novel, a fictional work of literature. It is difficult to find our way at times in this book, but that is noone' s fault. We are breaking new ground and that is an effort that goes slowly. The writing, if odd, is beautifully crafted. The ideas of the aftetlife, if unusual, are beautifully described. And the grief of Mr. Lincoln for his dead son is so raw and immediate, you feel as though you should turn away from witnessing such an intimate moment.

This book is the heir to Master's Spoon River Anthology, itself a groundbreaking play. If that work appealed to you at all, give this one a go and bring an open mind. I am guessing that you, like me, will never define the novel in quite the same way after reading this book.

bibliotom May 19, 2018

I have gleaned from experts on TV that ghosts are spirits of the dead who can't move on to the next plane of existence. In this way they are perfect exemplars of the Buddhist problem of attachment, the universal neurosis that is the unspoken subject of Saunders' novel. The "ghosts" here are stuck in the bardo because they won't let go of something in their lives, and in this way they are more like living human beings than the dead. The key to their escape from this perpetual twilight is compassion. There is no mention of Buddha in this book, but it's a wonderful example of how buddhism works in the real world, as imaginary and imaginative as this graveyard bardo is.

KateHillier May 14, 2018

That was an experience of a book. The format takes a little bit of getting used to but once I found my rhythm it was smooth sailing. Aside from the pain and gutpunching that the entire story as a whole is. Abraham Lincoln's young son, Willie, has died. He finds himself in an inbetween place with other spirits, who don't know or won't recognize their actual state of being. Meanwhile, in the living world, Lincoln grieves and a war goes on. The grief, and death, and destruction and penance being taken is heartbreaking. There are bits of humour throughout but it almost seems more tragic than funny.

I really enjoyed this. I guarantee you've never read anything like it.

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Read and reflect.

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Nanabelle_5
Apr 15, 2018

Add to Tablet

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peggysnorf
Apr 12, 2018

Awful book.

j
JANET FLAPAN
Apr 07, 2018

Stick with it, the structure can be confusing but it's so original and creative. I loved it and think it will inspire other writers to try new ideas. Based partly on history and partly on philosophy and Eastern religious ideas.

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smbeust
Apr 02, 2018

I loved this book. It reminds me of one of my favorites, by Sherri Reynolds, "A Gracious Plenty". I have always loved ghost stories since being very young, but these two books about people who are talking to one another in their cemeteries, fascinate me.

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maggie0287
Mar 22, 2018

I was excited to finally get this book after reading all the hype, and was sorely disappointed. The story is incredibly disjointed, jumping between snippets from publications and fictional characters within the book, often without any import and always without punctuation. I could not get into the story or the characters, and after about a 90 minutes of reading I resorted to skimming to just get through it.

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JAL49
Mar 21, 2018

I recommend listening to the audio of this book before reading it. With the audio you begin to understand much more quickly who is speaking and what the tone of the story is. Some of the more experimental aspects of the book on the page (lack of punctuation, lack of identification of who is speaking) are less distracting, and the narrative is more navigable. I absolutely loved this book once I relaxed and let what was mysterious about it (why are these people stuck in this place? are these real quotations from real journals?) unfold at its own pace. Saunders is not afraid to sail into unchartered waters in terms of storytelling. If you're willing to sail alongside him, you'll ultimately find his story to be heart-wrenching and beautiful, though not conventional. The confusion you sometimes experience is the confusion of the characters, too - you sometimes ask, as they do, "What is happening here?" You'll either find it unnerving or exciting.

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Einer2
Mar 21, 2018

I really wanted to like this book but found it too choppy especially in the audio version (I tried both print and audio)-too many great books to spend time trying to get this one.

martins_mom Feb 26, 2018

This is one curious and original piece of fiction. I listened to the audiobook version, which is an excellent production, and makes all the many various voices very distinguishable.
And if you haven’t looked up ‘bardo’ yet, it is a term from Tibetan Buddhism meaning “the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth”.

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legadillo
Feb 22, 2018

I'm not a fan of experimental punctuation, but about a third of the way into the book, I got the rhythm of it and I think it works.

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mIrIaMs12345
Feb 21, 2018

Disjointed, artsy, meaningless. I was listening to this book on CD and gave up after one disk.

m
meljeanthomas
Feb 19, 2018

I found this book unreadable. I was so looking forward to it as it is a compelling story idea and he is a great writer but I did not even finish it. And I finish everything!

smc_1 Feb 17, 2018

Loved this complex, but somehow quite simple, imaginative, utterly compelling novel. The writing and voices are transporting - melancholic, moving, masterful.

DBRL_ReginaF Feb 13, 2018

I really don't even know how I feel about this one. It was weird. Really weird. It was incredibly confusing a lot of the times but it was also brilliant some of the time.

a
aliccar87
Feb 01, 2018

I absolutely loved the format of this book. The method in which Saunders unravels this story is unlike anything I've ever read. This is a true historical fiction in that he blends nonfiction excerpts from historical writings with the dialogue and story line of his fictional characters. Saunders clearly performed an extensive amount of research while writing this book. "Lincoln in the Bardo" is both fascinating and a sentimental tribute to President Lincoln and his son, Willie. Truly an exceptional piece of literature!

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lisahiromi
Jan 24, 2018

I don't understand why this book is so highly recommended. The writing style was way too choppy, and I had a hard time following the story. I wanted to give up after about a third of the way through, but pressed on. Though the second half was better, I definitely wish I had skipped this books.

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mclarjh
Jan 02, 2018

The form of the ¨novel¨ should appeal to the twitter set. But why isn´t there a story?

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jesand
Dec 28, 2017

Ann Michel recommended.

OPL_ErinD Dec 19, 2017

This is one of the most original works of fiction I have ever read. It is hilarious and devastating and is written unlike anything else.

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chas1929
Dec 13, 2017

Have never read any books by G Saunders, and will not read another. This book was confusing and jumped all over with each sentence or paragraph having a reference. Even though it was a novel and I read mostly nonfiction. The author's thinking and verbalizing was over my head and with out a story line.

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mustI
Nov 29, 2017

Didn't know George Saunders from Adam but am now in love with this inventive, unique mind that manages to describe crushing grief, confusion, the horrors of civil war, the smallness and the greatness of the human spirit through excerpts from writings of Lincoln's period and the musings of numerous 'spirits' unwilling to leave the between-world of the bardo. Fascinating, constantly surprising, a tour de force, but not an easy read.


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