Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Vile Bodies and Never Let Me Go

I’m currently reading two books (both for book groups): Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. The first is a satirical look at the London “smart set” of the 1930s. While I want to hold judgment until the end, I have to say satirical works about one era or another usually do not appeal to me (The whole body of writings by Kurt Vonnegut, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 being the exceptions)

I’m uncomfortable with authors who “use” the novel as a device to push one singular idea across. I understand that many of our considered classics use this form, however often I feel the idea takes over the novel blanching out the characters and plots in sole service of that one thing the author want his whole novel to be all about. And characters suffer as a result, having no developed personality or acting in ways that make no sense in relation to their personality. Vile Bodies suffers from this. Rather than displaying the decadence and demoralization of an era through real and complicated characters as Edith Wharton does in House of Mirth, Evelyn Waugh creates a novel that has no interesting characters, just caricatures. Anyways, it’s stuffy reading. But we will see.

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