Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book: Possession

I know, I’ve already written about my love for this book. But I reread it, and my other review was months ago, and now my reasons for loving it are that much clearer.

I wonder how AS Byatt can sleep at night. It’s probably because of writing that she can. She knows so much, and has such a power over words, that she can write on almost any subject to the point that you really feel you are in the scene she is describing. In the last book I read by her, this was tedious, but I was grateful for it in Possession.

Basically, Possession is the story of two modern-day scholars who stumble on letters written by two previously unconnected Victorian poets. Letters and poems and journals describe the love affair, which entrances the modern day scholars. They immerse themselves in the affair as they follow it through its course. It’s a little like a literary Da Vinci Code, without any killers on the trail (although there are grave robbers, and what book is complete without them!)

I freely admit I skipped past most of the poetry. I wish I was more of a poetry buff, but I have to be in the right mood and in that sort of a book, I want to skip to the good stuff, find out what is happening to advance the plot. What poetry I did read gave me little insights to the story, but it wasn’t necessary. Just call me lazy!!

One of my favorite passages is near the end. In the story, the main male character Roland is reading. He has recently returned to his apartment from a long absence, and he is enjoying the silence of it. Byatt breaks in a little here, and talks about the experience of reading and how it brings intense pleasure. I like this passage that describes this process:

“It is possible for a writer to make, or remake at least, for a reader, the primary pleasures of eating, or drinking, or look not habitually elaborate on the equally intense pleasure of reading. There are obvious reasons, the most obvious being the regressive nature of the pleasure, a mise-en-abime even, where words draw attention to the power and delight of words, and so ad infinitum, thus making the imagination experience something papery and dry, narcissistic and yet disagreeably distanced, without the immediacy of ...moisture or the scented garnet glow of good burgundy. And yet, natures such as Roland's are at their most alerts when reading is violently yet steadily alive."

"Think this: that the writer wrote alone, and the reader read alone, and they were alone with each other...Now and then there are readings that make the hairs on the neck...stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark...”

I love this book. I think I could recommend it anyone. The movie made a few years ago with Gweneth Paltrow is almost as good.


Amy Sorensen said...

You are making me want to re-read this! So many books indeed...there's never enough time.

Lucy said...

There really isn't enough time. I'm glad I've read this bad boy because your review would make me want to read it and I know what a hefty novel it is!

Melanie said...

You're making me want to read this! I'll have to grab it at the library.

Fluent Brittish said...

Oooo! It sounds good! (but I'd totally skip over the poetry).