Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Feeling Aloft

I have lavished considerable praise upon David Mitchell since I discovered his first novel Ghostwritten in the summer of 2002. His writing has always greeted me as universal, cosmopolitan in the proper sense. It could be fashioned that he brought my wife and I together. That said, when cornered he cited Michel Faber as one of his favorite contemporary novelists, of which he admitted an underdeveloped familiarity. He cited specifically The Crimson Petal and the White.

Not to be snarky, but why?

I finished this 900 pages of Victorian gender drama, all filtered through the prism of feminism and Marxist literary critiques. It is hardly a work, as the fulsome Guardian (for Gawd's sake!) pronounced it "the novel Dickens was too afraid to publish." sigh. The character of Sugar could have been spawned in the fecund depths of the Dickensian imagination, also, perhaps William Rackham with all of his hang-ups, his fetishes and ever sprouting mediocrity. That said, Dickens likely wouldn't cultivate these characters only to then shadow them under the classic hysteric, a madwoman in the attic, though Faber extends us a favor by noting that with the benefit of magnetic imaging we could plainly see that she has a brain tumor. Agnes (the imbalanced wife of William) then affords us readers the text within in the form of rather bland, and thus quite believable, diaries that Sugar discovers and explores. These recursive themes don't really work, given we expect more sagacity from Sugar and then results are well, abrupt.

Byatt's Persuasion addresses most of themes from Victoria that Faber includes in his sprawling work, the chief difference is that Byatt succeeds in not pondering the distances in self-awareness between the two periods but also reinforcing an empathy for both epochs simultaneously.


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