Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Spell

A book starting out in the Arizona desert near Phoenix with one of the main characters visiting an obscure structure by Frank Lloyd Wright is appealing to me. The author Alan Hollinghurst, well I knew he won the Booker prize and that he is considered a fine author and that he is gay. The Spell certainly is a gay novel but mainly a very wise and extremely well written one. Hollinghurst is a keen observer of nature, place and space, of architecture, moods of weather and buildings, and of human character. I recognized a lot of his observations about love, loneliness, grief, betrayal. Moreover some of the little gestures, looks, attitudes my gay friends had spoken about (because these were not quiet believably portrayed in the film Brokeback Mountain) came back here in full array and more. The whole gay cultural and sexual scene is convincingly portrayed, frothy, sordid and witty. If you enjoy beautiful, craftfully structured, realist writing about human relationships and its pitfalls and highs, read the novel, unless you are homophobe. The Spell is the magic of love and attraction, yet also the powerful lure of drugs and loud House Music. Being a linguist I was charmed by the language: fast paced, full of allusions, humor and innuendos. Surely, I must have missed a lot of obvious references. You are encouraged to read The Spell and warned… Some excerpts:
- His vocabulary felt embarrassingly large and accurate, though in conversation he had a recurrent sense of inarticulacy. (A Brit in Arizona)
- Random phrases: insulting birthday-cards, unregulated vulgarity, old-world gloom or unsparing post-modern glamour, trowelling on the authenticating detail, the Orchidaceae (young and pretty gay guys), get the Rayburn going and cook an elaborate meal out of the garden and eat it with the sorry haste of the newly widowed.
- Robin felt the fresh awareness that went with showing a familiar place to newcomers … he looked around at the detritus of old religions, vessels of exhausted magic.
- He had forgotten the mood of a new affair, the compulsive mix of risk and reassurance. … I suppose the thing is, with types, it’s not so much the look as the psychological thing. Whether you’re drawn to givers or takers. … Those unspoken sadnesses or unguessed embarrassments that one partner keeps from the other forever. … He already knew the lesson, he knew the bereft amazement of finding that you unwittingly had your last fuck, your last passionate kiss, your last taxi-ride hand-in-hand in the gloom…
- It seemed that happening and happiness were the same … everything was immediate (after dropping E, ecstasy)
- Don’t become a slave to your need for freedom.
- Robin felt a tiny proprietary shock at the take-over by strangers. … it was that startling moment when you find that the party has taken off and is using up fuel. … The kitchen showed signs of the misplaced tidiness of guests, everything subtly wrong.
- He needed to find somewhere, and had an image of the light and space in which he would live, but nowhere he looked at had the right circulation… The edge of a small country town at 10.30 at night, with rear lights disappearing: it was a definition of loneliness.

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