October 1, 2005

Youth, Impetuosity, Ignorance

Recently, I decided to re-read a couple of books by A.S. Byatt, both of which I’ve owned for about ten years. I started with Possession, because I couldn’t remember which of the two I had enjoyed the most, although I do remember liking one much more than the other.
After a few pages, I realised that this was the one I had liked less; it’s an extremely dense text, heavy on the invented blank verse of a pair of fictional Victorian poets. Doctor Pockless would love it. Possession certainly has its own corner in the field that includes the works of Richard Groats and John Shade.
This is a literary detective story, uncovering the romance bewteen two Victorian poets, who – until the discovery of a love letter – were considered by the establishment to be a feminist lesbian and a respectable married man. It isn’t a light read, but as more clues are uncovered, you find yourself going back to re-read parts of it. The ending is very satisfying.
One of the things about re-reading books that I first visited in my early twenties, is that I find I have a lot more in myself to contribute to my reading of them, now. In fact I don’t see how I could have begun to imagine the state of mind of some of these characters, when hardly anything had happened to me. Of course, you will argue, that’s exactly what imagination is for; but this book was far more colourful, read with empathy.
I am now a few chapters into The Virgin In The Garden, which is far more accessible, and was even more so to my 24-year-old self, because the principle character is young and impetuous and ignorant.
Meanwhile, in a cute coincidence, the postman failed to alert us to the existence of a parcel this morning. However we have just walked into town and picked it up, and some unknown benefactor has sent me an unexpected Amazon package, which includes Babel Tower, by A.S. Byatt. Fancy that.


3 thoughts on “Youth, Impetuosity, Ignorance

  1. I bought a copy of Possession a few of years ago from a second hand book stall but just never got round to reading it…
    … until I was flicking through the channels on the tv in a bored manner and found the film version.
    It was about 20 minutes in, but I got sucked in by it – so much so that I didn’t even mind that Gwynneth Paltrow was in it.
    The next day I dug the book out of the bookcase and started reading it and really enjoyed it. Yes, it was a bit stodgy going in places, but once I got through the initial bit, I found I was really hooked and didn’t skip over as much as I thought I might.
    You’ve just reminded me that I was going to read more of A S Byatt’s stuff and never actually got round to it yet.

  2. I had no idea there was a film. I think I need to see that….. Amazon….

    Karen on October 2, 2005
  3. i like her short stories the best. “fire and ice” curls my toes so bad, i can’t put my shoes back on.

    redclay on October 4, 2005

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