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Words of Blood.
on 5 September 2014
Adhering stubbornly to his styling of them as Romances, Hawthorne's remarkable novel is one of American literature's seminal achievements, perhaps an allegory of the White Man's settlement. No wonder he and Melville were mutually admiring: while the latter was worrying that there might be no or perhaps a malign God, Hawthorne (whose ancestor was one of those who condemned the Salem 'witches') is possessor of a sense of Evil very unusual at any time, the story is redolent of it. The powerful Pynchon usurps the lowly Matthew Maule and Fate then begins its awful march. In a relatively short course - he was a master of the short story too - the dark house thus established, the Pynchons and others, lively characters somehow a little crushed, live in the shadow of this impressive, brooding house. And inevitably, an awful denouement works out, following an appalling curse issuing from the mouth of the wronged Maule. Taking in a masterly chapter, (I will not identify it), that manages a trick less drastic but more apropos than Georges Perec did in writing a book with no letter 'e' this is a brilliant study in Justice, beginning with those words that ring in my ears now. The style is lapidary and exact and no-one wishing to appreciate American culture can miss him. In my view this is superior even to 'The Scarlet Letter' though you must read them both as well as his pathos-ridden, powerful short stories. A striking achievement.