Sunday, June 24, 2018

Not So Mundane

Didn't get all that much reading done over the break, but I did manage to finish the two novels that Karen bought me for my birthday this year. Both made for easy reading representing, I suppose, the kinds of genre fiction that's intended to slip down with the minimum of effort. Certainly Lois Austen-Leigh's The Incredible Crime didn't pretend to be more than a fairly typical crime novel of the 1930s, though I was slightly taken aback at the degree of naked snobbery, of the social variety, implied if not displayed on every page. I suppose that was part of the fun of reading this in a twenty-first century context. The bland acceptance of fox hunting as a representation of the pinnacle of the English cultural heritage was a reminder of just how much a society can change - and this in less than a hundred years.

In contrast, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus seemed very much a work of today despite the fact that the action is set around the turn of the nineteenth century. To be honest there was little real attempt here to conjure any kind of historical reality. Rather, readers are invited into a version of the past that's intended to be little more than comfortable atmosphere. I suppose this is an example of modern-day fantasy, and I'm guessing the readership is predominantly female. (Yes, unpleasantly if not appallingly sexist, but there you are.) There are no fewer than two young couples in love, and this is the kind of love that reads as destined and transcendent from the first glance. There's not much of the mundane involved here, and I guess that's the point. It was easy to imagine someone wanting to make a movie of this involving a fair amount of CGI, and, again, I guess that's the point. Not quite sure why the writer went for the fragmented chronology, but did wonder if this was simply to make the whole thing feel a lot cleverer and more significant than it actually was.

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