Friday, June 10, 2011
Reading, solitude, idleness, a soft and sedentary life, intercourse with women, these are perilous paths for a young man, and lead him into danger.
Well well well, it's the Aurora Australis! As seen from the Derwent, Hobart, May 2011.
After last week's free-for-all, this week has seen the ratio drop considerably; with a combination of no bus trips, no lunch breaks and both children and PSP close to hand has seen me finish just one (and slowly make my way through another).
The Beacon is an odd little novel that explores concepts like family, ambition, truth (all that jazz). Riffing off the question of what happens to those implicated by the rise of 'misery memoirs' ('grief porn'?).
At the centre of the book is the strangely stilted May Prime, sister of Frank, who has written a bestseller called about his cruel childhood at a remote North Country farm through the 1950s. In it he accuses his late father of terrible cruelty and his family of collusion.
Although Frank's memoir portrays himself as a victim, the actual novel [The Beacon] revolves around his siblings, who must live with what he has written.
The story itself is rather complex. Although Frank's story essentially amounts to lies, the damage that it has done remains a fact. Moreover, Frank himself is profoundly affected by his inventions, although eventually they take him back 'home' and a confrontation with the family he left behind long before (and sold down the river), culminating in a final chapter layered with irony.
It is a well constructed book, and the descriptions of farm life reminds me a little of Thomas Hardy. The dynamics of prescribed family roles, the need to shake off the past to forge our own identities, concepts of duty, 'wasted lives' and the grinding exhaustion of one's obligations are beautifully sketched.
Well worth your consideration.