No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

#57: Tamburlaine Must Die -- Louise Welsh

Finished this the other day, but have been wondering why I didn't like it more. The language is splendidly rich and evocative: every sentence has a poetic resonance, and the imagery is vivid and fresh. So's the evocation of 16th-century London -- dirty and disease-ridden and full of violence, decay and double-dealing.

I think my problem's Marlowe himself -- and I don't think it's a failing of the book (as some reviewers seem to feel) that he's portrayed as a man who lives his life in a consciously theatrical manner. He has an eye for a scene, and it often feels as though he's dramatising an event even as he (ostensibly) sets it down for posterity. There's a hollowness at the heart of Marlowe; we're never quite sure what he feels about the events that happen to him. His desperate wish to live, to survive a meeting in Deptford (the novella takes place over the last three days of his life) does come through, but there's not much sense of anything else affecting him more than superficially. He's rueful and world-weary and ever so arrogant; not an especially likeable character.

All that said: this is a quick read (it's only just over a hundred pages long) and the prose is wonderful. Worth a read.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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