Wednesday, April 25, 2012

transit of venus

well i been pondering the transit of venus....elegiac is the word that sprang to mind first.

shirley's prose is simply beautiful, and rich. i took the book at a slow pace which is nearly always a good sign.

she does a great job at laying bare what i call 'the english curse' (i left there as a boy of 8 and have lived there a few times as an adult). a combination of a condescension, fear and the triumph of politeness over honesty.... to the mounting detriment of soul.

and the reason she does this so well is that her characters are not wholly definable in these terms. they are not caricatures. the very struggle between the unique, vulnerable self with the armour of persona in all the main characters is what allows us to see it all the more clearly...it is brought out in relief so to speak. shirley is a psychologist, as all truly good writers are.

the scope of the book is sweeping, embracing many themes from the personal to the political, but it is the mysterious vagaries of romantic love that provide the narrative momentum and coherence, as the name of the book suggests....and of course there is no more poignant domain in which to juxtapose the struggle between artifice and nature that i referred to above.

yes the book is elegiac in tone....but it is not a dirge. there is a sort of deep acceptance here which is the height of honour - the very meaning of our existence here - the refusal to die in spirit, to condemn or hate. the cruelty and madness and fate's capricious hand (and claw) are here and our hero and heroine (ted and caro) are tested and fall more than once, but they remain...pure. that innermost chamber remains unsullied though the heart may bleed around it....a stoicism? no...it is more than that.....there is a quiet valor in them both. shirley has very nearly incarnated spirit itself in these characters which is the highest a writer can achieve.


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