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Thursday, January 13, 2005

 

The Line of Beauty

Alan Hollinghurst's new novel The Line of Beauty (Bloomsbury, 438 pp., $24.95)is a good read. It was reviewed in great detail by The New Republic Online
The issue date was December 13, 2004. Click on the link below.
http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20041213&s=wood121304

My thoughts about the novel: The author is obviously a great fan (as are lots of us) of the great novelist Henry James. Hollinghurt's admiration is refected not just in internal references to James, but also in the tone and style of the novel. Hollinghurt makes a telling and somewhat unflattering comparison of British upperclass society in the mid 20th-century with James' 19th Century descriptions of the same society. The principal difference is not just in the loss of manners and morals, but in the moral and social decline of the aristocracy itself. In the 100 years between Hollinghurst's society and James', British aristocracy has lost touch with its historical roots in dignity, privilege, government, and most of all, the difficulty of access to a title. Ancient inherited titles have been replaced with titles with less than a century of existence. The most ancient in The Line of Beauty dates only from the late 19th century and the most recent are created as we watch. Most titles have been purchased by political contributions or awarded for political service. None (at least in the characters we meet in The Line of Beauty) was earned through artistic, scientific, or military service. The overall tone of the British (political) upperclass is crass, vulgar, and degenerate: druggies, philanderers, adulterers, drunks, wanton homosexuals, etc. All in all Hollinghurt's upper crust is a far cry from James'.

Aside from the social aspects of the novel, it captures the excesses of the 1970s and 1980s exactly. Reading the book gives the reader a sense of how life was changed for gay men (and those they lived among) during the beginnings and the disaster of the Aids epidemic.

Click below to order the book.



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