Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

Just when I thought I was through with monsters for a while– after finishing The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark–I encountered this terrific story by W. Somerset Maugham.
There is, he is saying, something of the monster in the character of the genius, the artist. After all, there is nothing so important for the artist as the passion for his/her art. Belongings, relationships, mores, health, money–all drop into the ranks of mediocre concerns, and those of us who come close to the furnace of raw creative energy that is the genius can come away burned, consumed.
We are offended by the character of Strickland, the artist, the boor, the selfish, brutal lover. At the same time, we are share the narrator’s fascination with his uncompromising path, his indifference to propriety, his scorn of respectability and slowly go to the heart of his art.
Maugham wrote with elegance. There is a grace and lilt to the dance of his wirds, but the steps are not hard to follow, and there is a glorious story told here.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark

If Charles Dickens had somehow taken a bad acid trip, he may have brought forth a work of this luminous, nightmarish misery and populated it with villainous characters of this kind of relentless brutality. Dickens could paint a terrifying picture in shades of Victorian grime; Clare Clark brings a more explicit, florid and raw set of colors to The Nature of Monsters.
Brutality is joined with religion and feeds on the terror of shame, guilt and punishment; stubborn superstition is joined with wrong-headed pseudo-science.
This is Gothic horror, and there is an unwavering darkness about this story, but the skill of the author brings a glimmer of promise that keeps me reading. It may be simply that it is inconceivable to me that this tale not resolve into some kind of good for someone of the wretched folks found here. There are intriguing contradictions in the characters that hint at some possibility of redemption or hope, and there are the hints that some good may just appear through a crack in the hard shells of their brutalized personalities. This keeps me reading, too.
Clare Clark has a fine sense of the darkness of this time and place. Her first novel (that takes place in large part in and about the sewer system beneath this same city of London) demonstrates her conjurer’s skill at bringing this realm to life. I remember being startled at its title, The Big Stink. I also remember how I was compelled to keep turning the pages.
Finally, there is a startling plot twist that comes just at the end of The Nature of Monsters that perfectly elucidates the title of the book. Watch out for the monsters when you start this one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized