17 October, 2006

A changeable thing, beauty

We had a power-cut last night, and I dreamt about scheming grocers cutting deals with electric companies, periodic outages forcing citizens to restock their refrigerators at planned intervals. It's not a great idea for a story, but probably better than the crap they're shilling now. Orhan Pamuk has just won the Nobel—I read his The New Life a while ago, and found it very dreary. And this week I glanced at a BBC review of the new Booker Prize winner, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, and thought it sounded contemptibly banal—matters not helped by the reviewer's pre-pubescent prose style:
There are lines though that are quite thought provoking, often included towards the end of a chapter, allowing the reader to pause and think about the statement before continuing.

"She sometimes thought herself pretty, but as she began to make a proper investigation, she found it was a changeable thing, beauty."

Some of the statements are so clever and deep, one may feel it necessary to jot it down and re-visit.

"Anyway, he said to himself, money wasn't everything. There was that simple happiness of looking after someone and having someone look after you."

It almost feels like Desai is trying to convey a message to the reader about the importance of things in life which perhaps she sees are often overlooked.

"Time should move. Don't go for a life where time doesn't pass."
Even Seneca isn't this bad. In my case, the bitter taste of such modern fiction was salved by the purchase of a much older fiction—namely, a facsimile reproduction of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Meanwhile, my cuñada writes about ants and tobacco, inspired by yours truly. The same cuñada told us the other day about 'oxytoxin', the orgasm hormone. For a while I wondered how I could rhyme it with 'foxy boxing' in a clerihew; then I googled it and discovered it was actually oxytocin. Shame.

4 comments:

John said...

I think B. R. Myers has it right in A Reader's Manifesto (a lovely, lovely book): so-called modern fiction is all about sentences, which are what reviewers quote, after all, and therefore what makes this sort of tripe sell.

Conrad H. Roth said...

I haven't read it; I'll check it out.

Gawain said...

Poor Orhan got it mostly on the grounds of his uncompromisingly ethical stand on the matter of the unmentionable. But he is not a bad writer: the first 10 chapters of My Name is Red are wonderful and the 10th chapter, I Am A Tree, on par with the best writing on the planet. Something bad happens to the novel afterwards; the dates he gives at the end of the manuscript suggest he wrote the book over two separate time perdiods. If I believed in stylistic analysis, I would say the break came after chapter 10.

Daniel said...

Perhaps, "rocks the bosun"?