Posted 20 hours ago

Possession: A Romance

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Byatt plays with the multiplicitous meanings attached to the word and concept of ‘possession’: material things that have contested ownership, owning and being owned, self-possession, obsession.

He was excited by the ferocious vitality and darting breadth of reference of the work, and secretly, personally, he was rather pleased that all this had been achieved out of so peaceable, so unruffled a private existence. It was of this golden apple that Virgil, most learned in heroic antiquities, made the golden bough Aeneas carries into the Inferno or Underworld. But that doesn’t do byatt justice: she created two characters who are flesh and blood in their own right, and gave them poetic voices that are incredibly personalized… what a delight! The text was taken apart and formed into whatever the accidental school held as its dogma, as it’s ideology. As the protagonists and villains of modern day literature departments compete for academic renown, as the different schools piece their knowledge separately together, as Michell falls in love with Maud, Byatt unwinds the story of an academia that has lost the big picture: the picture of what matters.This is a very fine work of literature indeed interspersed with writings from the Victorian poets the academics are supposedly pursuing and letters as well. There are things that happen and leave no discernible trace, are not spoken of or written of, though it would be wrong to say that subsequent events go on indifferently, all the same, as though such things had never been. In what becomes the most charming part of the story, Mitchell and Bailey steal away to a magnificent country house, not far from Lincoln, where LaMotte lived most of her life in seclusion.

Before I realized what I was doing this, it was happening for years with my constant re-reads of parts of Guy Gavriel Kay novels. I was slightly worried about Roland's fate at the beginning of the book - unemployed postgraduate - it's clearly where I'm heading myself but I've just got to make the most of the journey, I think. There's a fascinating fight over spiritual beliefs that I don't have the headspace to deal with now, but is haunting the back of my head, and I expect to be obsessed with it the next time I read it. I am convinced that you must undertake that grand Fairy Topic--you will make something highly strange and original of it.

I go to books to remind myself that beauty exists and it is worth something and it is a part of me, no matter how much I forget that sometimes. I've shared the exact "blind decade-and-a-half dislike" of the author since I too threw aside Still Life "in disgust" in my early teens. I love the details of 19th Century life, the language of that time, poetry, a mystery and human tragedy and struggle. The Solitary Thoughts of Alexander Selkirk" was one of those poems, the musings of the castaway sailor on his island.

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