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Tony Grist

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Possession: A.S. Byatt [Jun. 11th, 2012|05:44 pm]
Tony Grist
A Victorian tragic romance folded up inside a modern romantic comedy- rather beautiful and quite extraordinarily clever with all its mirrorings, doublings and post-modern self awareness. If Charlotte Bronte had come after Joyce and Nabokov- instead of so long before them- this is the sort of thing she might have written. 

Just one note of regret: the poems ascribed to the imagined Victorian protagonists don't quite work. They are the simulacra of poems, not really poems at all. Poetry is one thing you can't fake- not even if you are a wonderfully skilled writer of other things. Real poems have an inner life- a certain vitality of language- which these cleverly-crafted pastiche poems almost entirely lack.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2012-06-11 04:42 pm (UTC)
Ha! A close-in branch of the Free Library has it. I may go scarf it up this afternoon.

The poetry won't bother me. I skip over the poetic bits in most things. They might as well be written in Elvish for all the attention I pay to them.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-11 05:02 pm (UTC)
It's jolly good.

You can't entirely avoid the poems. They're integral and full of clues.
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[User Picture]From: sambeth
2012-06-11 05:17 pm (UTC)
I couldn't stand the poems. Loed the rest, but hated the poetry. And, as you've pointed out, you can't ignore them, unfortunately.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-11 06:21 pm (UTC)
The poems are very clever creations, but not poetical. It wouldn't matter so much if we weren't supposed to believe that Ash (at least) was a great poet.
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[User Picture]From: ashlyme
2012-06-11 07:36 pm (UTC)
Did you catch the radio dramatisation a while back? I'm not sure whether all the poems were included. I listened, but patchily.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2012-06-11 10:33 pm (UTC)
Did you catch the radio dramatisation a while back?

Who were the primary actors?
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[User Picture]From: ashlyme
2012-06-11 11:00 pm (UTC)
Jemma Redgrave (Maud), Harry Hadden-Paton (Roland), James D'Arcy (Ash), Rachel Stirling (La Motte).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-12 07:53 am (UTC)
I didn't. But I can imagine it working rather well.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-12 07:54 am (UTC)
Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2012-06-11 10:34 pm (UTC)
If Charlotte Bronte had come after Joyce and Nabokov- instead of so long before them- this is the sort of thing she might have written.

I bounced entirely off Possession when I read it in college; I fell in love with her only because I re-read Angels & Insects. rushthatspeaks keeps telling me to try it again for the way Byatt writes the sea.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-12 08:00 am (UTC)
I read Elementals a few weeks back. That's full of the most amazing evocations of place and light and weather. I think she's been honing her descriptive skills since writing Possession.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2012-06-12 08:26 am (UTC)
I read Elementals a few weeks back. That's full of the most amazing evocations of place and light and weather.

I am fond of Elementals—I'm not sure I've managed to find a copy of my own, but I adore "Crocodile Tears" and "Cold" was one of the first things of hers I ever read.

I think she's been honing her descriptive skills since writing Possession.

How did you feel about The Children's Book, which is full of material culture and art?
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2012-06-19 11:43 am (UTC)
I just finished Possession and I skipped most of the poems to read for plot -- or, rather, for divergence between book and film. But I skimmed a couple of the poems, and although I don't especially think they work as poems I can see they are a necessary part of the work.

So I'll go back and read it again, with poems. There's plenty in there to merit subsequent reading(s). Plus, I am finding that I want to possess this book, in several senses of the term.
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