Tuesday, May 20, 2008


...to reviews, in which other people have more interesting things to say than I do, and that should:
1. Convince me at long last to start reading Dumas's long-lost masterpiece,
2. Convince you to read Patrick Hamilton, and
3. Convince some doubters that Doris lessing is fully deserving of the Nobel Prize.

A review of The Last Cavalier, by Alexandre Dumas, which is ready and waiting for me (What am I waiting for? — it's Dumas! Hurrah!):
Dumas, as Tolstoy said, was a 'novelising historian' rather than a historical novelist. He knew that fiction flourished in the margins of history, which is confined to obtuse and incorrigible facts; the novel specialises in the scrutiny of private lives, not public affairs.

Francine Prose gives a rundown of the intense and squalid Patrick Hamilton:
His ambivalence about his characters is frequently extreme; it's hard to think of another writer who so thoroughly despises the weaknesses of the very same men and women he so desperately and compassionately longs to save from themselves.

At times his view of humanity seems positively Manichaean. Half his characters are consumed by shame and regret while the other half feed on the tender, foolish emotions of the first half. He allows his characters to descend to a level of degradation so low that you might assume they'd hit bottom unless you'd read enough of Hamilton's work to expect them to sink further as they anguish over every major slight and minor decision.

One review of Alfred and Emily, by Doris Lessing:
Alfred Tayler and Emily McVeagh are the writer's parents and this is a book of two halves — the first section is a novelist's game of might-have-beens: Lessing removes all the frustrations that circumscribed her growing up in Rhodesia, and gives Alfred and Emily the lives they wanted for themselves. The second section is another honest excavation of the lives they were all actually dealt. The gap is the one in which the writer has always lived.

And another:
But whenever she drifts too far from the subject, she returns to her two main themes: the eternal war between mothers and daughters, and the vital importance of women going out to work rather than suffocating at home.

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