Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Complete Booker 2010 Challenge: G.


The back cover says it will make me think about "sex, history and the nature of the novel." So why am I so indifferent?

Can it be that I am not interested in these subjects? Nah.

Can it be that I prefer a novel that is coherent? In which the various sections follow each other in a logical order, without large breaks in the action, and without semi-regular digressions into unrelated subjects? Perhaps one where the main character is someone you care about, or are at least interested in? Ah, now we're on the right track.

The book begins with G.'s parents, a married Italian merchant and a much younger Englishwoman, then follows G. through his childhood to his rambles around Europe, possibly as a spy, most assuredly as a collector of female favors, against the backdrops of World War I and the first crossing of the Swiss Alps via airplane. It really only got interesting for me in the last few pages, when G. impulsively decides to participate in a street riot in Trieste (while still keeping an eye out for his next target of seduction). Unfortunately, too little, too late on that score.

Let's just go right to the excerpt, shall we?

Excerpt:

Honey may be either healthy or toxic, just as a woman in her normal condition is 'a honey' but secretes a poison when she is indisposed . . . [I]n native thought, the search for honey represents a sort of return to Nature, in the guise of erotic attraction transposed from the sexual register to that of the sense of taste, which undermines the very foundation of culture if it is indulged in for too long.

The kitchen smells of bacon and labourers' boots.

The cook, standing by the range, watches the seven men and three maids eating with an expression of apparent surprise on her face. If she is not harried, it is the expression she habitually wears when watching people eat the food she has prepared. The surprise cannot be at the fact that they eat it with such appetite--for this can surely no longer surprise her. Perhaps it is less personal: the elemental surprise provoked by watching anything being devoured and then apparently ceasing to exist.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your thoughts on this book very much. I'm sorry I couldn't find the review when I first stopped by. I didn't intend to make you change your blog but this is so much easier, thank you. Sadly, Rose City Reader didn't enjoy this story either. She's just posted her review and it seems my initial instincts were right-not the book for me, despite loving all things Berger.
    You have a very nice blog here and I'm glad I found it.

    ReplyDelete

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