Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bliss - Peter Carey

Virginia Woolf wrote of Charles Lamb that what she liked about his writing were the flashes of poetry.  The implication, of course, is that in many other parts of his work Woolf found Lamb's prose to be prosaic.  I don't know enough about Lamb to comment about Woolf's judgement; yet, in a different way the same can be said about Peter Carey and Bliss.

Bliss is certainly flawed, so much so that at times I wonder whether Carey ever bothered to re-read his chapters at all; or whether he simply pressed on.  Then, in others, and fortunately most places, the novel is sublime.  It manages to capture what is magical, ridiculous and crude all at once, inviting me to laugh, feel a little bitter about the world, and be uplifted - all of these are delivered with such delicious detail that as a reader - and a writer - I am filled with a jealous awe.

Bliss remains a disputed favourite then; and I am glad that it is the book I have most confidently recommended throughout the years.  I will even loan it - as I have done my many previously unreturned copies, if you can give me a good reason why you won't buy Bliss for yourself.

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