Tuesday, 6 June 2006

I am reading

I am reading The Line of Beauty. It is certainly one of the best of those prizewinning type of novels I've read for a long time (and I have been on kind of a bender of them recently, in part because the local Warehouse, where I went to buy a Cookie Cop talking biscuit jar as seen on tv's The Office, had a huge bin of remaindered literary novels for three or four dollars apiece.) Anyway, it's very, very good.

If I can legitimately make a criticism only 247 pages in, my criticism is that the signature refrain or musing on this Hogarthian / Ogee / curve of manly buttocks line of beauty of the title has been brought in two or three times more often than necessary. The model is "the golden bowl" or some similar heavily symbolic object in a Henry James novel. But the line of beauty is an attribute, not a thing, and the brilliance of this novel is to do with how it doesn't deal with attributes or ideas except when they're very firmly attached to specific things, people, and places. In this it is like a noninsane version of American Psycho. I think that has something to do with the 1980s and conservatism and enjoying material splendour as well.

The ogee motif - "both English and exotic" - did make me wonder a little about the relation of this novel to Zadie Smith's On Beauty, which has ogees in the cover design, and is clearly trying to do many of the same things Hollinghurst's book does, but in a much less compressed and articulate way. (NB that is not a criticism - there's a time & place for baroque elaboration as well as for sharp clean outlines.) I almost wonder if Smith read The Line of Beauty while she worked on her own book. The timing suggests she probably didn't, in which case both novelists are writing about some large common experience, which is far more interesting.

Other books I dredged out of the bin at the Warehouse and read: Property by Valerie Martin, Waxwings by Jonathan Raban, The Ghost Road, Pat Barker, and, I'm ashamed to say, an arse-kissy biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


jacqueline said...

The Warehouse. The Warehouse. Where everyone gets a bargain. HELP ME I'M BRAINWASHED.

And speaking of bargains, P&P (BBC miniseries edition) is $24.95 at Borders for the double DVD. I felt I should tell someone. Seeing as how I myself ordered it in as an import and paid an extortionate price for it, many years ago. And walked to school 18 miles in the snow. With no shoes. Etc.

Ampersand Duck said...

Ooh! Pat Barker? I'm there. Right tomorrow. And heh. You bought a cookie jar. Hope the novelty never wears thin!

Tim said...

Stop! Move away from the cookie jar!

I have nothing else to add.

Susoz said...

The Line of Beauty *is* a beautiful novel.

Mel said...


That is all. Although I've heard it's a great book. And I hazard a guess there are fewer vaginas in the fridge than in American Psycho.

Mel said...

Also, my comment verification included "TGI". Oh wise computer, how right you are.