Tuesday, June 14, 2016
The Return of the Native.
Initially I was captivated, but didn't finish. There were too many books, and I was taking AP exams, man. But I had this image of Egdon Heath imprinted on my odd brain. Then, at Columbia, I'd take the subway up from the Village (I know this sounds very name-droppy but tant pis, it happened.) and read with such great concentration that I always missed the stop. Harlem. Pre-gentrification. Eliot, Trollope, and Hardy. And I realized somewhere (on the 2 and the 1) that The Return of the Native was MY book.
When I write my novel, it's doubtful you'll get much about nature. Let alone an opening chapter. But my god the nature in this is glorious. And Hardy is all large personalities and melodrama.
As a gay boy, I like these things.
Look, the language is astonishing. And the battles are epochal. And fate is a goddamned bitch. (And by fate, of course, I mean character.)
At Kenyon, I brought up Eustacia Vye without much hope of return. But all of my smart handsome friends sparked to it. There was a girl on campus, older than us, who fit the bill. We called her Eustacia all Freshman year. Has there ever been a better written female character than Eustacia? Only Emma Bovary, who caused unnecessary surgery.
As far as the men, Clem was a prig and a bit of a noodle, but tragic nonetheless. I always wanted to be Diggory Venn, the reddleman. Who didn't?
But here are some lovely lines about Clem that make it clear who I truly am:
He had been a lad of whom something was expected.
Beyond this all had been chaos.
That he would be successful in an original way,
or that he would go to the dogs in an original way,
seemed equally probable.
The only absolute certainty about him was
that he would not stand still
in the circumstances amid which he was born.
Posted by RSB at 6:54 PM