And you've got far less interesting things that you really "should" be doing? >_<
Well, that was yours truly today, wrestling between obligations and the almost compulsive drive to finish one of the best novels that I have read in recent memory.
Okay, now I'm gonna have to track down ALL of Ryman's books, even the out-of-print ones:Ryman, Geoff. Was. 1992. New York: Penguin, 1993.Summary
: A haunting story of the unenviable life of real Dorothy Gael from Kansas, the girl who performs her role in the film, and Jonathan, a horror flick actor dying of AIDS who grew up loving Oz and its inhabitants, now on his deathbed obsessively tracing history back to its source.Comments
: What's there to say, really? This novel was PERFECT...in no small part because the author utilized his writerly strengths so effectively. There aren't that many writers out there who can inhabit such a myriad of different types of historical characters with such finesse, and Ryman is also gifted at blurring the lines between different realities. (He does something quite similar at the end of Lust
as well.) I felt, at times, that the whole Judy Garland subplot was extraneous and/or underused, but it makes sense. Otherwise, the way all the threads of the novel eventually come together--the way the young aide at the psychiatric hospital meets Dorothy and realizes who she is then turns out many years later to be Jonathan's therapist who puts him on the scent, for example--is masterful. The heart of the novel is of course Jonathan, with his obsession for history, going to Lancaster and looking up Judy Garland, going to Kansas to find the real Dorothy Gael. There is something in this particular passion for preserving history that seems evocative of certain strands of gay culture, but I'm not up on that, so I can't make any more in-depth commentary. The overarching statement of the novel, that we should look to the past in lieu of the present or the future as the focus of our lives, seems a powerful criticism of the American myth of progress and of Manifest Destiny. (Now that I think about it, there were some interesting notions of history as well in Angels in America
. I wonder if it's all connected somehow...? *ruminates* As you can see, this novel has given me lots to chew on.) Regardless, it seems that Ryman is an Americanophile, and he (or his editor) has gotten the American vernacular down pat, even in descriptive passages, so that you'd never guess without being told that it wasn't an American at all writing the novel, but rather an Englishman. The effect, at least for me, is comfortably unexperimental, undistinguished Standard English prose. Yet, almost paradoxically, this is easily one of the best novels I've read in recent memory, hands down.Notes
: trade paperback, 8th printingRating
- Though some might find this book to be unbearably depressing, the author's unabashed passion for his subject and writerly skill was, for me, a wholly thrilling experience.