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What Goes Around Wednesday

What I’ve Finished Reading

In the end, I didn’t understand the Alexandria Quartet. I didn’t dislike it and in a way I wanted to understand it, but not enough to make any effort at all. So that’s it for Clea. Mysteries were solved, mysteries were rekindled, Clea [spoiler!]lost her hand in a gruesome accident and acquired a sci-fi prosthetic that allowed her to paint even better than she used to. I’m not sure why, when I find Proust’s Proustsplaining almost endlessly enjoyable (even way out here at the end of all things in the uncertain posthumous tidepools of Lost Time) why I should be so unable to engage with Durrell’s Durrelisms. Maybe it’s just that they’re different writers and there’s no accounting for taste.

Let’s see what Burgess has to say in 99 Novels:

It is the exoticism of the setting and the bizarreness of the events which impress the reader more than the somewhat pretentious theorizing about the structure. Anything can happen in Alexandria – pederasty, incest, all the convolutions of lust, all the varieties of betrayal. Enter a teashop, and someone will be screaming in terminal meningitis on the floor above, and the cashier will be suffering ravishment behind her cashdesk, while outside a live camel will be slowly cut to pieces. Durrell’s Alexandria is a dream-city caught in prose which seems to emphasize its unreality. . .”

That actually makes it sound a little worse than it is.

I’ve broken schedule a little and just read straight to the end of The Count of Monte Cristo. There is some great drama in the final chapters – and a truly ridiculous circle of purgatory for Danglars – and an energetic, syrupy, generously ridiculous ending for Max and Val. I am sorry that Mercedes is so bereft, and that she blames herself for things that were not really blameworthy.

The last truly great scene was Villefort shaming Monte Cristo with the bodies of his wife and son. A short time ago, having found out that his wife was the poisoner, Villefort told her to kill herself to spare them both the shame of a hanging – or I guess it would be a guillotine, since this is France. But after Benedetto reveals in front of the court that Villefort is his real father, and tried to bury him alive as a baby, Villefort suddenly acquires a hunger and thirst for mercy. He rushes home to prevent his wife’s suicide, but too late: she’s killed herself and her son, too.

Or wait, no, the part where Dantes visits his cell at the Chateau d’If is also good.

So ends The Count of Monte Cristo. I have to admit that at the very, very end, when Danglars was being taunted by the Vampa crew and Max Morrel was trying to kill himself all over the place, I began to feel a tiny tickle of impatience for it to be over. But a slightly less ridiculously entertaining Count of Monte Cristo is still one of the most ridiculously entertaining things ever created, so I'm not complaining.

Alas, [Spoilers for the end of The Count of Monte Cristo] there was no Mercedes/Dantes reunion, except arguably in heaven, which we all know doesn't count unless one of you is already a ghost.

What I’m Reading Now

She said to me today as I was leaving: ‘And now my dear, when are you going to start writing again?’ I might have said, of course, that all this time I’ve been scribbling off and on in the notebooks but that is not what she meant. I said: ‘Very likely never.’ She made an impatient, almost irritable gesture; she looked vexed, like a housewife whose plans have gone wrong – the gesture was genuine, not one of the smiles, or nods, or shakes of the head, or impatient clicks of the tongue that she used to conduct a session. ‘Why can’t you understand that,’ I said, really wanting to make her understand, ‘that I can’t pick up a newspaper without what’s in it seeming so overwhelmingly terrible that nothing I could write would seem to have any point at all?’ ‘Then you shouldn’t read the newspapers.’ I laughed. After a while she smiled with me.

The Golden Notebook is a little like the Alexandria Quartet, but readable. That's not fair or accurate to either, but it is a breath of fresh air after the convolutions of the Not Durrells. I don’t know where I got the idea that The Golden Notebook was intimidating and “difficult” - it wasn’t from Burgess, who only hints that the project is imperfect and regrets that Anna is too critical and humorless. I don't think it's the back cover copy, which is straightforward enough. Maybe it's just that it's a big book with an abstract cover? Anyway, this impression of difficulty was totally wrong. Anna is a writer who keeps four notebooks on four different themes; one day her best friend's troubled son, who is being inappropriately nosy here, challenges her on whether it's honest to keep different parts of herself separated in this way. Meanwhile, there is lots of earnest dialogue about the breakup, imminent and ongoing, of the Communist Party in Britain (the book begins in 1956 but extends backward and forward in time) and lots of unhappy affairs extensively analyzed.

What I Plan to Read Next

Books from my bookshelves. The Story of the Lost Child. I found The Hidden Land at a used bookstore (the sequel to The Secret Country), so that too, eventually.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2017 09:38 am (UTC)
Yay! The Count of Monte Cristo is such a great ride, isn't it? I have to say that my favourite bit from the ending was his OTT confrontation with Danglars and its ending. Oh, Dantes. That's where revfenge gets you and everyone else.

Jan. 5th, 2017 01:39 am (UTC)
The best! :D And now that I am finished and Fear No Spoilers, I can watch the movie versions! And the animated space adaptation! The Monte Cristo party isn't over yet.
Jan. 4th, 2017 10:20 am (UTC)
I've enjoyed your Count of Monte Cristo read through so much! Gosh it's soooo over the top. I love it so!
Jan. 5th, 2017 01:40 am (UTC)
It's a thing of beauty and a joy forever. I'm so glad I gave it a try!
Jan. 5th, 2017 03:57 pm (UTC)
Monte Christo really ends with high drama, doesn't it?

I've always felt sorry for Mercedes whose only crime is getting on with her life. I suppose Edmond would have preferred her to have been pining for her lost love all her life. And Haydee as some kind of concolation price- I do not approve.
Jan. 6th, 2017 03:44 pm (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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