Posted 20 hours ago

Possession: A Romance

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That opens the possibility of modern romance to parallel the past, culminating in rather ludicrous scenes in Cornwall. The librarian tiptoed away to telephone: whilst he was gone, the dead leaves continued a kind of rustling and shifting, enlivened by their release. This is the sort of read that cleans out all the nonsense from my brain and leaves me with what is essentially important again.

There was no year on the letters, but they must necessarily come after the publication of Ash's dramatic poems, Gods, Men and Heroes, which had appeared in 1856 and had not, contrary to Ash's hopes and perhaps expectations, found favour with the reviewers, who had declared his verses obscure, his tastes perverse and his people extravagant and improbable. After years of being shut up inside a library going crazy inside my head, I got sick of the whole exercise as a merry-go-round of narcissistic and masochistic head games. This may seem petty, but I was so swamped by how many and how often they cropped up that I want a list for future reference.The story could have been told without it, but I do think it would have lessened the impact to have had the poems discussed so frequently and never have seen any of them.

H. Lawrence's advice: ''I thought, I have to have two couples, which he says is the beginning of any novel. If the world refuses to listen, she'll wedge the truth into our ears with a handful of steel-plated swabs.Stuart Evers recently wrote an interesting blog expressing this distaste and what he termed an " allergy" to AS Byatt. I thought, I can't do that because, (A) the Browning scholars might sue for libel, and (B) that left me no room for invention. It was of this golden apple that Virgil, most learned in heroic antiquities, made the golden bough Aeneas carries into the Inferno or Underworld. For me, Possession is like a bottle of wine or a box of really good chocolate (the really, expensive and sinfully good kind).

In addition to the new-old poetry, Possession has packed inside it a meditation on the arts of scholarship and biography; the most moving writing about celibacy I've ever come across; a critical work on the erotics of reading; and a half-lament, half-ode to the powers of time and memory and forgetting. Thus it is revealed that both the modern and historical characters (and hence the reader), have, for the latter half of the book, misunderstood the significance of one of Ash's key mementoes.I would not have you think that I do not recognise the superiority of your own fine ear and finer taste. Byatt really has done a succesful tour de force in recreating the Victorian time period: the book contains lots of long poems and stories in this Victorian style, very concise, meticulously detailed, full of mythological references and floral and animal descriptions.

A remarkable feat of storytelling through prose and poetry that compares with nothing I have ever read before. Present and past dissolve in undelivered letters, secret diaries and rose-scented poems that act like two-way mirrors where reality becomes a mirage and generally agreed facts mere artificial constructs. The novel was also adapted as a radio play, serialised in 15 parts between 19 December 2011 and 6 January 2012, on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. Roland and Maud come across as real (if not as enthralling) as the poets and their story drives the mystery forward to its solution.It’s just something where the vast majority of the time I spend during the day is spent in tasks that are for the most part not suited to my personality or many of my strengths. An important message in Possession is that there will always be some distance between what historians know and what actually occurred.

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