Monday 12 May 2014

Brief 'no spoilers' review of John C Wright's Awake in the Night Land


No spoilers.

I bought this novella having seen the recommendation from Adam Greenwood:

I fully agree that this is a really, really good book; indeed it is good in a way and at a level that I found almost bewildering. The level of the thing seems to be far above me - I was just aghast at the way the story kept twisting and reversing, again and again and again, yet with a complete sureness of touch and cohesion.

I have already said that, simply as prose, it is as original and high in quality as anything I've come across written by authors of the past couple of generations; the plotting is, if anything, even better.

Having said all this, I am not sure whether I got it all, indeed I am sure I didn't. Without being in the slightest pretentious (in the way that Henry James, James Joyce or Samuel Becket - and innumerable lesser modernists - are so often pretentious; I mean that sense of deliberately trying to impress the reader with a conviction of the authors' cleverness) I am nonetheless sure that JCW's mind, specifically his fiction-writing persona inclusive of whatever inspirations effectual, is operating at a level considerably beyond mine.

The Roman Catholic church is fortunate in having someone as advocate of his quality - and indeed the whole nature of this fiction strikes me as the best kind of product of this most intellectually-sophisticated of Christian denominations.

Another element, which I would not regard as typically Catholic, but which I found profoundly resonant, was the general idea that the salvation was a thing that involved a man and wife, together. This seemed to come from the author's heart and spoke to my own heart as an ideal, and indeed as a kind of ultimate or eventual existential necessity: that we are each individually, as man or woman, complementary half-persons, even at best.

I did not feel the book was anything so formal as an allegory, certainly there was no point-by-point correspondence going on - but without doubt there is an important and deliberate Christian relevance. This is a picture of the human condition in its essence. Indeed, it is the kind of book a Christian can and should learn from; and which may produce un-named stirrings and yearnings in the breast of a non-Christian.

I only finished the book today - so these are first impressions. What will be interesting will be to see and to feel how my ideas and evaluations develop over time, and (presumably) re-readings.