Friday, November 02, 2007

Gray vistas

A friend has been reading John Gray lately, and has told me the book he was reading, while generally unremarkable, is also full of statements that are either fatuous or just plain wrong. An academic, I was told, should be ashamed of writing such things. Until today I hadn't read anything by Gray but wood s lot links to his review of a biography of John Cowper Powys, who has, he says, "an intensity reminiscent of Proust".
As in Proust, Powys's central protagonists are introverted, almost solipsistic figures, who find relief from the sense of being 'contingent, mediocre, mortal' in sudden epiphanies, which they try to preserve in memory. However, whereas Proust's epiphanies occur always indoors in a self-enclosed human world, Powys's were found in the open fields and coastal vistas of his native Dorset - a more-than-human landscape that frames his greatest novels.
So, we can only assume the car that nearly knocks Marcel down in the Guermantes' courtyard, causing him to step back sharply on the uneven paving-stones and to experience another epiphany, was driving indoors.

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