~ ONE JOURNEY ~
~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke
The Thirteenth Tale ~ Monday, February 19, 2007
Revisions finally completed. Now I just have to tidy up my cover letter, print it all out and send it off! At last. It's nice to have it done, even if I'm not as optimistic as I'd like to be. There's still something not quite sitting right with me about the latter part of the novel, though I'll admit it's much much much better than it was. Ah well, at this point, I'm just dragging it out, I think. I hate that there's something stumping me and it's making me drag my feet about it.
In other news, I recently finished reading _The Thirteenth Tale_ by Diane Setterfield. I expected something a little more "literary," which it wasn't, IMO. But that might have been the hype, all of which seemed to point that way. Certainly, it's a paen to books in general, novels more specifically, and 19th century novels in particular. The two main characters are both lovers of books, and _Jane Eyre_ is both implicitly and explicitly evoked again and again. To me, though, it read more like a cross between _Wuthering Heights_ and _the 1001 Nights_ with a bit of Garcia Marquez thrown in--and lastly, a generous dose of the Gothic novel as a form to season it all. Of course _Wuthering Heights_ does fall under the latter category, but this was more generalized. It reminded me also of some of those Victoria Holt type gothics.
It was a fun read, and it was nice to see that the form isn't totally dead--it seemed to have disappeared for a while (or at least, I wasn't finding it), which I regretted because it's something I'd love to sink into writing someday and it seemed a pity that apparently, there wasn't much audience for it anymore. But perhaps that's not the case after all...
At any rate, I wasn't super impressed at the beginning--and throughout, it seemed implausible to me that someone of Vida Winter's background (which seemed sheltered and limited) would be able to write so very compellingly about such a diversity of experiences that she would be lauded as the most famous writer alive, with sales figures to rival the Bible. This is particularly incongrous considering that she doesn't seem to have had much of a life in general and her relationships all seemed to be limited, restrained and/or dysfunctional.
Certainly, a good imagination will take you so far--and Vida is also shown to have shaped much of herself from books and narratives she has read--but I'd think in order to reach such exhalted status in the eyes of readers everywhere, that would have to be tempered with actual experience in the real world. And she even says, at the beginning, that after the fire, her life stopped and the rest is filler--which also implies that she never really had any wider experience in the world that actually would have changed or affected her in any deep way.
But, that implausibility aside, it was neat to read. The nested narratives, as well as the crazy, larger-than-life characters of the early part of Ms Winter's tale, and even, nominally, elements of the plot, were strongly reminiscent of _Wuthering Heights_. But then later, the _Jane Eyre_ motifs became more evident. I did also like the way she played with the idea of the thirteenth tale--which we learn at the beginning is Vida Winter's most famous short story even though no-one has read it. When her first compilation came out in its first edition, it was called _Thirteen Tales of Loss and Despair_ (or something like that)--but this was an error, as she hadn't managed to complete the thirteenth tale, and she therefore hadn't submitted it. The wrong cover treatment was sent on the edition, so it was recalled (the compilation was later just called _Tales of ... etc._). Only one copy escaped--one copy, and the story of how there were supposed to be thirteen tales. So everyone has since wondered what happened to the final story.
The way she implicitly deals with that is tres cool (later it is more explicitly resolved as well).
At any rate, the book itself never purports (that I could tell) to be anything more than a tribute to books and a good old-fashioned Gothic tale. It is very sordid at times, but sordid in a way that is particular to the Gothic form--both ferocious and ugly while still somehow being romanticised (think Heathcliff's treatment of Isabella, or later, of Hareton and the reduced and sordid circumstanced Heathcliff forced on him). And while it isn't, IMO, particularly literary, it is most assuredly Gothic, reminiscent of those old novels I used to read--and lots of fun. ::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 10:12 PM::::