10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"I've Not Had Enough",
This review is from: Lanark: A Life in Four Books (Canongate Classics) (Paperback)
Having been an 'avid' reader since I first picked up a "William" book over fifty years ago, I must have read countless hundreds of novels over that time, 'Classic' or otherwise. "Lanark" sits easily in my top ten favourite novels ever. It is now rightly regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of all time, and contributes mightily to English Literature in general. Each and every time that I have recommended this novel to a 'reading' friend, they have thereafter warmly cherished this book and continue to hold it in the highest affection. But, so much for my meagre recommendations.
To properly 'review' "Lanark" would take me the rest of the day, and at least twenty-five pages of exegesis.
Just in passing then, I have heard this opus described as 'dense', 'opaque and 'difficult'- it isn't! You only have to read the opening paragraph to see that the prose is straightforward, if not downright dead-pan. Sentence structure is generally simple, and even honed-down, as the author seeks to convey his meaning as directly as possible. Having said that, "Lanark" is a vivid and luminous work, and is at times gut-wrenching and immensely sad. Indeed, Sadness seems to be at the absolute core of this book, and to inhabit every page.
We also note in passing the title of this novel: "Lanark - A Life in 4 Books". The novel deals with the Life of One Single Person only (with, of course, the concomintant cast of characters). Lanark and Thaw are the same person in other words, as so much seems obvious. We have the 'literal' life of Thaw (quite clearly semi-autobiographical with regard to its author, and quite apart from its merit as Art, very informative about Gray's development as an artist), and we have the 'imaginary' life of Lanark, who is still steadfastly Thaw, but in some other surrealistic parallel dimension.
Gray's organisation of his material in "Lanark" is sublime/apt/meticulous, such that we are never in doubt about 'where we are' in the story, and we are not left metaphorically wandering about and lost.
Lanark is of course wandering about and lost, much like the rest of us. Lanark is just an ordinary person, a central theme of the novel. And as for the novel's main theme, that is surely Love.
Love found, love lost, unrequited love .... this theme is best summed up by a quote: "I ought to have more love before I die. I've not had enough."
I first read this novel in October 1982, and my Granada paperback edition has literally fallen to pieces.
Luckily, I also possess a signed and limited-edition of "Lanark" in solemn hardback. A true and forever treasure, until I sadly have to die, like everyone else.
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Initial post: 21 Apr 2011 22:02:08 BDT
James, I'd like to get in touch with you after so many years. Look me (or Giovanni T.) up on facebook - I have posted a photo of you wearing a Kerouac t.shirt!
Mairi R., (Edinburgh, early '80s)
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