Too close to home

LUD-in-the-Mist - Hope Mirrlees

I’ve been thinking: why couldn’t I finish this book, why did I get so bored? Now I know – because I couldn’t care for any of the characters. None was sympathetic. None inspired me to like him or her, even a little bit. In that, this book resembled a satire, but it wasn’t sufficiently funny either. It also read like a huge metaphor, but I didn’t like what I was seeing in it. Too close to home, I suppose.

And it was too slow. I stopped reading on page 85, when still nothing happened, just lots of talk about something that might be happening ... soon ... almost. Up until this point, most of the printed space was taken by back stories of characters and places. I guess I’m not patient enough to plod through the rest of the book and find out if anything is actually going to happen.

On the positive side, the purist of the English language will find delight in this old tale. Its writing is superb and its descriptions evocative and original, no cliché in sight. In the 85 pages that I read, I found the following examples of the author’s wonderful command of the English language. I miss it in the modern books, where action is much faster. 


It had an ancient Guild Hall, built of mellow golden bricks and covered with ivy and, when the sun shone on it, it looked like a rotten apricot; …


(*) Spiritually, too, he passed for a typical Dorimarite; though, indeed, it is never safe to classify the souls of one’s neighbors; one is apt, in the long run, to be proved a fool.


The men of the revolution, he said, had substituted law for fairy fruit. But whereas only the reigning Duke and his priests had been allowed to partake of the fruit, the law was given freely to rich and poor alike. Again, fairy was delusion, so was the law. At any rate, it was a sort of magic, molding reality into any shape it chose. … In the eye of the law, neither Fairyland nor fairy things existed. But then, as Master Josiah had pointed out, the law plays fast and loose with reality – and no one really believes it. [in another snippet, the author calls this kind of attitude “legal fiction”]


“Master Nathaniel, I’d like to reason with you a little,” he said. “Reason I know, is only a drug, and, as such, its effects are never permanent. But, like the juice of the poppy, it often gives a temporary relief.”


The world the author describes is too much like our own, despite the hundred years separating us from the time of this book’s writing, and the heroes are too much like my neighbors: a bit self-important and a lot ignorant, loving their children and despising their spouses but indifferent to everyone else. [See (*) quote above. I guess I’m a fool too, just like them.]


I read and saw myself and eventually closed this book for good in disgust.


It’s a wise book and an insightful book. It’s just not interesting.  


New words and expressions for me:


Pleached alley – an alley with branches interweaved overhead

Plangent – loud, resonating

Poncif – I couldn’t find this world in any of the online dictionaries. Something to do with architecture, I surmise.  

Exogamy – the custom of marriage outside one’s circle


Cross-posted on GoodReads.