Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Acceptance World, War and Peace yet again

I read The Acceptance World, the third volume of A Dance to the Music of Time.  There probably isn't much I can say about it that I didn't talk about before.  The writing is beautiful, not much happens, Jenkins slips around in time, yadda yadda.  Jenkins has an affair with Jean DuPorte, but it doesn't carry much emotional weight.  Jenkins himself is pretty detached; one senses that he rarely gets emotionally involved with the people around him.

I think that his detachment paradoxically gives more of a punch to the spots where characters are in trouble.  When we see Stringham as a wreck, for example, it's a real shock, and Jenkins's cool reporting of the episode makes it seem worse.  I've seen people call this a comedy (Evelyn Waugh said that Powell is almost as funny as Wodehouse), and I can't agree.  There are very funny parts, but also some very painful parts, as well as a lot of parts that are neither.  Certainly I wouldn't recommend this to someone looking for another Wodehouse...

Closing in on the end of War and Peace.  Pierre finds his redemption in suffering while a prisoner of the French.  Reminds me of Raskolnikov or Dimitry Karamazov.  Maybe just a Russian thing...  The big problem for me, though, is that Pierre is so changeable through the novel.  He's pro-Napoleon, then an ardent Mason, then he decides to assassinate Napoleon, and so on.  I have trouble accepting that he's finally found the good road.  I liked Andrei Bolkonsky's character arc much better.  (I've come to think of them as the main characters, but there's no good reason for that -- certainly the various Rostovs are just as important, but it may be that I just can't connect with them in the same way.  Though Natasha is a great character).

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