The Ordeal of Richard Feverel - George Meredith
A Victorian novel done in Meredith’s intricate style – his prose is crafted like delicate metal latticework. The author expects the reader to be as intelligent as he is, which can be demanding. Still, this is interesting as a psychological study. Did the impetuous, foolhardy pride Richard displayed as a boy compel him as a man to go through with a duel he could have avoided? The book has depth and ambiguity, and that’s good. The problem is that the main characters are almost feverish in their emotions (did people in Victorian times really carry on this way?). The minor players stay earthbound, and succeed very well there.
The Finishing School - Muriel Spark
This is a long short story packaged as a novel. The author, nearly ninety, doesn’t have the wicked bite of years ago; her attitude toward her flawed characters is one of mild amusement. Her subject is publishing and the relationships between writers, focusing on their machinations to achieve success. Though cynical (I liked her use of the word “crap” to describe the novel that has long been the mysterious center of attention), this is no New Grub Street. Still, I enjoyed my leisurely stroll with Dame Muriel.
A Personal Matter - Kenzaburo Oe (Japanese)