Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Chronicles of Clovis - Saki
I can imagine H. H. Munro writing one of these stories before heading off to the club. They’re mildly diverting – the prose is good, sometimes even elegant – but there’s little substance. Saki’s indulgence in wickedness and cruelty (though not of the distasteful variety) isn’t my cup of tea. If you want to read Saki’s one masterpiece, get your hands on The Unbearable Bassington.

Aiding and Abetting - Muriel Spark
Unfocused – the novel hasn’t much structure – but I went with the flow. Spark’s characters are interesting; in her eighties she still has a sharp eye for human foibles and she presents them in an economical prose (no extraneous words). Though she didn’t have much of a story to tell, she was a writer, so she wrote this book. I like her writing, her way of seeing things, so I read and enjoyed it.

The Home and the World - Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali)
This novel, by a Nobel Prize winner, comes from a different sensibility, one I couldn’t relate to. First I became impatient, then critical. The dialogue is artificial – carefully worked out philosophical pontificating – and the woman whose affections two men are vying for is vacuous. Her highly-moral husband is a Bengali noble, but he does nothing with his money to relieve the suffering around him. In his view (and Tagore’s?) the poor are meant to suffer; that’s their preordained lot in life. Hes competing with a man who embraces amorality. The only thing I found insightful is the husband’s deciding that, by placing his wife at the center of his universe, he gave her the power to make him miserable; he understands (at least intellectually) that the world is larger than her. But there was so much in this book that I couldn’t sympathize with that I put it aside with relief.

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