Friday, 6 November 2009

The Line of Beauty

Near the beginning of The Line of Beauty I thought I'd hit on something. So, sensitive Tory aesthete (or, more precisely: senisitive wealth-inebriated quasi-Jamesian aesthete) Nick is staying with his friend, bipolar self-harming young Catherine, in her parents' large London house (whilst they're away). She sees the cosmos as a beautiful, poisonous shimmer; he is aestheto-autistically addicted to a rarified Kantian aesthetic purity. Nick was due to go on a date, but Catherine's parasuicidal melodrama hijacks the evening, and he spends it with her instead.
Schumamnn had given way to The Clash, who in turn had yielded to a tired but busy silence between them. Nick prayed that she wouldn't put on any more music -- most of the stuff she liked had him clenched in resistance. [18]
By 'onto something' I mean, onto my dislike of the character and the mileu of this novel, a dislike superbly distilled (sublimed, even) by Hollinghurst's technical and stylistic brilliance. It's to do with an ethos of passivity, I think; or more precisely an aesthetic and ethos predicated wholly on receptivity. Entirely lacking the capacity to clench, like that, in resistance, Nick is if anything a pitiable character; capable of experiencing bliss, but without traction, like a man subsisting on a hummingbirdish diet of only sugar. Maybe I shouldn't dislike, so much as I should feel sorry for, him.

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