I’m afraid this is just going to be one of those rambling posts, a blog entry in which some kind of theme, argument or conclusion may possibly suggest itself. Or not. So here goes.
Book reviews have stalled a bit. It’s not from want of reading — au contraire, I’m ploughing on with several books at once. It’s just that I’ve got to that stage of dawdling, not committing, one which no doubt we all hit from time to time. Exploring the world of ideas? I’m either wading through a mass of ideas — where they float like bubbles or balloons, insubstantial or ungraspable — or there’s a distinct vacuity inside my skull, where I feel I’ve nothing of worth to add. I’ve started drafting three reviews and then thought in each case, Have I got anything new to say about this? Do I want to post about the same old ‘same old’?
Let’s have a look at the roads I’ve travelled, that we might see patterns of intent rather than random wanderings. There’s Xenophon’s The Persian Expedition, itself a record of a journey, in which an army is virtually snatched from the jaws of death deep behind enemy lines. Then there are two novellas I selected as part of the Reading New England Challenge: Angela Carter’s “The Fall River Axe Murders” (set in Massachusetts) and H P Lovecraft’s “The Picture in the House” (a locale somewhere in New England). Both involve violent deaths, though this is not a reflection on New England.
I should next mention A S Byatt’s two-novellas-in-one fiction, Angels and Insects , which the author has described as “an exploration of Victorian anxieties about what it was to be human,” with one piece “a Gothic tale about Victorian religion, sexuality and Darwin’s ideas” and the other “also about Victorian religion and sexuality, but in relation to spiritualism, the idea of the Afterlife …” If I note in passing that this is partly about Tennyson’s most famous poem, In Memoriam, then perhaps a bit of a thread is in fact suggesting itself. When we come to Castle Dor, the Daphne du Maurier completion of a novel begun by Arthur Quiller-Couch the theme is firmly to the fore: based on the tragic tale of Tristan and Isolde but set in 19th-century Cornwall, I think that the demise (spoiler alert!) of one of the lovers is a clear indication to me that Death in various guises and circumstances is what links all these pieces together.
A bit morbid then, I guess, but altogether appropriate for the ending of a year, and particularly for this year of 2016. This might give a focus to my reviews, starting with The Persian Expedition; at least I’ve started a review of this but have up to now been daunted by the continuing tragedy of present-day Syria and the general unrest in the region — the pounding of Aleppo, the bombings in Turkey, the obscenity of Daesh and the cynical machinations of Russia.
Here endeth the ramblings.