Rant time

Though the sound of my weazy gently snoozing beside me is calming, I yet feel the need for a (quiet) rant. I’m on page 338 of Possession. A new character has been introduced, and I’m somehow expected to be interested enough in her to want to read over forty pages of her journal, in the hopes of finding out some more about the torrid love affair of a female poet during 1859/1860.
Byatt has this fiendish habit of diverting attention from the main narrative thrust of a story at every point that it starts to become remotely engaging (yes, I suppose this could be called suspense). This happened, too, in The Children’s Book, only it was much less clear in that which was the main narrative, because there were so many storylines (and sadly, I found only one or two of them compelling), and so every chapter seemed a divergence – I just got used to there being a lack of drive to the narrative.
Theoretically, I like the idea of opening a book at page one and not knowing what kind of magical adventure I might be pulled into – I like the idea of being exposed to poetry, fantastic stories, intimate letters, diverse people in a fairly random way, but with Byatt, there’s less a sense of magical exploration and more a sense of sledgehammer: let’s bash them with a long poem now, let’s throw in some little known historical facts, let’s snap their attention to the beginning of a short story. In other hands, I feel like I could happily ride the mysterious wave, but not like this – not like this.
The sad thing is, I could read and probably admire Byatt’s short stories, poems, and even her novels, were it not for the fact that they are lumped together in a rather vulgar and obtrusive way. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity and focus, and allowing things to be whole. I was rather unkind about Byatt’s editor in my review of The Children’s Book, but now it rather seems like Byatt’s style to make a Frankenstein of some accomplished but distinct writing.
I am continuing the battle through Possession, which I hope will harden my resolve to return to Doyle and Hollinghurst, but for goodness sake, did it need to be so long? After all, Byatt certainly isn’t Tolkein.

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