Sunday, June 17, 2007
DBB readers, it is time for the truth: The real reason I hate this book is my own literary snobism. It's the story of two modern literary scholars, Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell, who are researching fictional Victorian poets Christabel La Motte and Randolph Ash. Through their study of letters, diaries and so on, they discover their Victorian subjects were having an affair that was unknown until their discovery. Predictably the two modern characters are drawn into a relationship as well. Here's my problem-- the poetry. All poetry is the product of its times and to write a poem imitating other poems is to merely put words on a page not produce true art. For Byatt to write page after page of imitation Victorian poetry and then subject the reader to it as if it were canon is just wrong. Perhaps one or two poems for each of the Victorian characters might have been ok, but Byatt forces the reader to virtually take a survey class of two phony poets. This is in addition to page after page of journals, letters and other ephemera. Who has time? My advice, skip this book, and especially the poems, skip the movie, staring Gwyneth Paltrow (most people did!) and go read some Yeats.