I fail to understand the appeal of pumpkin as a flavor. Pumpkin as a vegetable, great. As a pie filling, better. As a flavor though? People really want their coffee to taste like squash? Except it’s not squash, it’s a nice spicy warmth followed by the most disgusting palate-busting, slimy-saccharine-overload possible. I apologize to you, coffee.

In other news, I’ve been thinking a lot about Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses which took up my flight home from London last week. It was a NYTimes notable book of 2008 with good reason–this translation from the Norwegian is quiet, wrenching, lovely.

It’s a hard book to describe. The plot isn’t linear, the characters aren’t all that lovable, and there is violence and brutality and a whole lot of love that is unbearable. As is the case with most things deserving to be called “great”, sitting here trying to package it up neatly is nearly impossible.

So I’ll go for brief instead. Trond is the narrator; he’s in his 60s, living in self-imposed isolation after a loosing his wife and distancing himself from his daughters. Over the course of a few days, he recalls specifics of his childhood in Norway, and we gradually begin to see how the war, his parents, village life, childhood friendships, physical labor, the natural world, and family dynamics are sort of small eddies that together make up a complex man.

I finished the last chapter on a hitched breath, and just sat there, thinking. All the ways in which life is complicated, all the actions and reactions and relationships and selflessness and selfishness that makes us who we are…well, good art shows this. Good art makes me say yes, no shit life is complicated, but it also incredibly, unbearably beautiful as well. Fluffy, idealistic thoughts like these are also easy to hang on to on vacation, and easy to squash amid the syrup stains and moldy tea leaves of daily life. So I’m taking this paragraph instead, as I take some next steps:

Time is important to me now, I tell myself. Not that it should pass quickly or slowly, but be only time, be something I live inside and fill with physical things and activities I can divide it up by, so that it grows distinct to me and does not vanish when I am not looking.

Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses. Highly recommended.