Dear Korrektiv Konsumers, I humbly ask that you go forth and buy or steal this book…
And then write all kinds of nice things about it in the reviews… A beer in it for you! OK, fine! The cocktail of your choice and grilled steak!
(But you have to come to Wisconsin to claim them!)
C’mon in, the reading’s fine! (Still plenty of books to review!)
About a month ago, I finished reading Dr Percy’s stab at science-fiction, Love in the Ruins. I had no time to blog about it then, and have little time to blog about it at the moment, but here are a few scattered, superficial, spoiler-free initial thoughts:
- My overall impression was similar to that of Korrektiv fellow-traveler Craig Burrell, who reviewed the novel in 2011. Like him, I think the premise is great, but the telling of the tale is overlong and under-focused. Some severe trimming would have improved the book considerably.
- That said, the main cast is nicely drawn, and the creeper-covered neo-New South setting felt, if not believably realistic, then persuasively consistent. Also consistently unsettling, with its islands of shiny modernity and pockets of old poverty amid the ruins of the [1940s-1960s(?) '70s(?)] ‘Auto Age’. The automated carillon of the abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, playing religious and secular Christmas carols — and college football fight songs! — on the Fourth of July, echoing off a derelict drive-in movie screen, is especially haunting.
- Overall, the book was not — and Dr Percy, in his essay ‘Concerning Love in the Ruins‘, says the book was not meant to be — a prophetic prediction of the future (as, e.g., Brave New World has ended up being). Still, this line from Dr Tom More, describing the gadgets of his own shambolic future-world, hit close to home: ‘Appliances [...] are more splendid than ever before, but when they break down nobody will fix them.’
- Percy also predicted the rise of steampunk! Tom More climbs into his colleague’s ‘electric Toyota bubbletop, a great black saucer of a car and silent as a hearse’ and notes the anachronistic contrast of its interior styling: ‘These days it is the fashion to do car interiors in wood and brass like Jules Verne vehicles.’
- Speaking of stylistic throwbacks: The diabolical, deodorized, flat-topped Art Immelman reminds me of the Harry Trumanesque space alien from the ‘THE LAST DONAHUE SHOW’ thought experiment in Lost in the Cosmos. They both seem like good fits for a David Lynch movie.
Have you read Love in the Ruins? What did you see, like, dislike, feel, think?
Thrill me with your acumen.
Evelyn Waugh, er, Hugh Bonneville. Dammit, will someone please let me make this movie?
“I know I’m not a wordsmith,” Bushnell said, the afternoon sun shining on her face through a wall of glass doors. “And I don’t write poetry. Sometimes I think I should, because it’s really helpful. But I always wanted to write novels. I think when I was 12, I started reading Evelyn Waugh, and I loved Evelyn Waugh so much, and I thought: This is how the world really is. If I could be Evelyn Waugh, then I would be happy.’ ”
- from Edith Zimmerman’s “Candace Bushnell’s Fantasy World, Starring Candace Bushnell” in The New York Times Magazine
Waugh’s masterpiece, “A Handful of Dust,” is one of the finest English novels of the last century, both hilarious and catastrophically sad. And it contains a climactic scene that I just don’t buy at all, a scene I detest, a horrible scene that bowls me over with the beauty and skill of its telling every time.
The wise men; Joseph; the tiny infant; Mary;
The cows; the drovers, each with his dromedary;
The hulking shepherds in their sheepskins — they
Have all become toy figures made of clay.
In the cotton-batting snow that’s strewn with glints,
A fire is blazing. You’d like to touch that tinsel
Star with a finger — or all five of them,
As the infant wished to do in Bethlehem.
All this, in Bethlehem, was of greater size.
Yet the clay, round which the drifted cotton lies,
With tinsel overhead, feels good to be
Enacting what we can no longer see.
Now you are huge compared to them, and high
Beyond their ken. Like a midnight passerby
Who finds the pane of some small hut aglow,
You peer from the cosmos at this little show.
There life goes on, although the centuries
Require that some diminish by degrees,
While others grow, like you. The small folk there
Contend with granular snow and icy air,
And the smallest reaches for the breast, and you
Half-wish to clench your eyes, or step into
A different galaxy, in whose wastes there shine
More lights than there are sands in Palestine.
Wilbur, Richard. Anterooms: New Poems and Translations: 35-36. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
Anne T. Eaton, reviewing The Hobbit for The New York Times, 1938:
This is one of the most freshly original and delightfully imaginative books for children that have appeared in many a long day. Like “Alice in Wonderland,” it comes from Oxford University, where the author is Professor of Anglo-Saxon, and like Lewis Carroll’s story, it was written for children that the author knew (in this case his own four children) and then inevitably found a larger audience.
W.H. Auden, reviewing The Fellowship of the Ring for The New York Times, 1954:
Seventeen years ago there appeared, without any fanfare, a book called “The Hobbit” which, in my opinion, is one of the best children’s stories of this century.
Donald Barr, reviewing The Two Towers for The New York Times, 1955:
In 1937 J. R. R. Tolkien wrote “The Hobbit,” intended for a children’s book but touched here and there with terrors which had the darker involvements of myth, and at times even with that “clang and groan of great iron” which Chesterton heard in the medieval chansons de geste.
Philip Norman, interviewing Tolkein for The New York Times, 1967:
“The Hobbit” wasn’t written for children, and it certainly wasn’t done just for the amusement of Tolkien’s three sons and one daughter, as is generally reported. “That’s all sob stuff. No, of course, I didn’t. If you’re a youngish man and you don’t want to be made fun of, you say you’re writing for children. At any rate, children are your immediate audience and you write or tell them stories, for which they are mildly grateful: long rambling stories at bedtime.
“‘The Hobbit’ was written in what I should now regard as bad style, as if one were talking to children. There’s nothing my children loathed more. They taught me a lesson. Anything that in any way marked out ‘The Hobbit’ as for children instead of just for people, they disliked-instinctively. I did too, now that I think about it. All this ‘I won’t tell you any more, you think about it’ stuff. Oh no, they loathe it; it’s awful.