Some theatre each day keeps the doctor away…

The Pure Novel

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I liked The Casual Vacancy.  I don’t think it’s anywhere near the best book I’ve read, but there was much more to it than your general thriller/mystery/etc.  (Not that it was purporting to be any of those things.)  It was a bit like Under Milk Wood, but with an interior to the character’s lives.  Well, more of an interior, at least.

I read the review in the Sydney Morning Herald of it, by Peter Craven, who stated that it isn’t “by any stretch of the imagination, a work of art”.  Not that I ever particularly valued his opinion on art in the first place, but I don’t think I’ll bother even reading anything of his again.  (Not that I generally read reviews for books, mainly because most of the books I read are classics to begin with.)  I vaguely remember that, in the past, I’ve had reason to think he was an idiot, though I can’t remember why I thought that.  There’s something terribly snobbish about that phrase, there is.  I, for instance, have yet to see a David Williamson play that I thought was any more than mere average, but I still recognise them as works of art.  But I shall dwell not on such things.

What I quite liked about it – The Casual Vacancy – was that Rowling has this emotional shorthand, it seems.  Or rather this truth shorthand.  It’s not in the prose where her power lies as a writer (though it has its moments every now and then), but in the interactions between the characters.  Sort of.  It’s hard to explain.  Maybe it’s more that there’s a truth to many of the details she uses, many of the quirks and situations and conversations.  It’s more than superficial simulacra, though.  (How’s that for a phrase?)  (Couldn’t help alliterating, either.)

What I really would have liked to have seen would have been a novel twice as long, I think.  She had quite a lot of characters, each taking seemingly an equal amount of narrative attention, and so why what the characters were feeling was intense enough, there was a bit of a lack of depth.  Hmm.  But I enjoyed it, and eagerly await her next book.

One wonders whether a truly pure novel would have no dialogue in it.  If dialogue is the domain of the stage, does having it in a novel taint its purity?  (This is not to say that a novel without dialogue would be better than a novel with dialogue.  One thinks of dance, which I seem to have an ever-so-slight disdain for in relation to the other arts, and one wonders whether it would be anywhere near as good if it used no music – the ballet especially.  But pure dance, methinks, should involve no music.)  Pure drama involves no set, lighting (any more than natural), sound effects, costumes, and so on.  Only the actor and the words.  Pure music has no singing involved, methinks.  One wonders if opera can ever be pure.

One wonders if literature is the purest artform of them all, as its passed through no interpretation between author and audience.  (Though when I say ‘pure’ in that sentence, I’ve changed its meaning from ‘pure’ as in ‘not tainted by the major forms/methods/communicative mediums unique to other artforms’ to ‘pure’ as in ‘least likely to be corrupted in the transmission of its meaning’.)

Also read A Study in Scarlet today (Sherlock Holmes), before I finished the last 150 pages of The Casual Vacancy.  I thought it had terrible structure, but apart from that it was okay.  (Hopefully the other books that Doyle wrote are better than his first.  Apparently the James Bond books follow the same pattern – I could tell Casino Royale wasn’t the work of someone in complete control.)

I haven’t decided what I’ll read next, though.  Probably Finnegans Wake.


Written by epistemysics

October 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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