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

Monday, October 23, 2006

#93: The Apple -- Michel Faber

A collection of short stories, focussing on various characters from Faber's monumental bestseller The Crimson Petal and the White. His introduction quotes, at length, several of the letters he's received from readers eager to find out what happened to the novel's protagonists. Do any of these stories provide that closure? Well, no, not really. And Faber says he has no interest in writing a sequel. But these were the stories that 'demanded to exist'. Intriguingly, there's one character who doesn't appear here despite Faber's best efforts:

I offered him an opportunity to live again, as a younger person, even as a child; I urged him to seize the chance to say the things he'd been too shy to say the first time round. He remained too shy.
Such things must be respected.


I take such author-character interaction with a pinch of salt. On the one hand, hello? Made up? On the other, any character worth writing about is going to achieve an independent existence in one's head -- in much the same way as pre-literate humans allegedly took right-brain notions as the speech of gods, writers' characters can take on an independent life in which the hard work of logical construction and extrapolation happens behind the scenes, behind the curtain of consciousness, and events and reactions and behaviour spring fully-formed into the mind.

The stories themselves? Some work better than others. Mostly they're set before or during The Crimson Petal and the White: glimpses of the lives of Sugar, Emmeline, Christopher; Mr Bodley (for once without his friend Ashwell) suffering existential crisis due to a fly; William Rackham revising his personal history, bitter and remarried and sure he's seen the body; and the tale of Henry, an old man recalling his boyhood in a household best described as Bohemian.

Henry keeps saying 'you read sex into everything'. But Faber's disingenuous. The sex is there, in almost every story.

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