Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Before the Terror

Just finished God of Small Things.  Wow.  How heartbreaking.

The style of Roy's prose took me a little bit to get into.  It's lush and lyrical, but the narrator is an interesting choice.  It's a 3rd person variable POV, sort of omniscient, but not.  In the sense that the narrator is present, like has a voice of his/her own, opinions, asks rhetorical questions, etc.  A third person unnamed narrator who somehow knows everything.  Reminds me of like, the voiceover people on, say, Desperate Housewives, if you know what I mean.  But once I got used to the unconventional prose of the book, I really began to get into it.

Another thing that interested me was how she used flashback.  I deal heavily with flashbacks in my own writing, so it was interesting how she wove the past and the present, moving around it with a fluidity but not in a specific pattern.  It wasn't sequential, and things openly referred to other events we hadn't yet encountered.  So going into it, you get a sense of what has happened, but not completely.  It's a bit confusing, but you go along with it, trusting she'll reveal what happened along the way.  In fact, it's the knowing that something terrible has happened that propels you forward.  And even once you know what's coming, the prose pushes you along.  Plus, it's a little like watching a trainwreck.  Horrifying, but you can't stop hurtling towards it.

I squirmed as the aunt showed herself to be a bitch and a half.  I hated her with a fury.  But what surprised me were the sudden tears that sprang to my eyes as I hit the part where we finally see in scene Estha pulling away in the train station.  It completely broke me apart.  I knew this was coming, so why did it effect me so?  I'm not sure.  Maybe because I finally had the full picture of what had happened, what childish guilt and misunderstanding had taken place, what kind of grief they were all holding in their hearts as they left each other.  Or maybe it was just being in scene.

The last chapter, beautiful.  I didn't expect it to end on this note, a flashback of one of the rare moments of happiness and joy and positive beauty in the book.  So much of the book is focused on the fallout of terror and unkindness, negative things.  But here is love, and it is fleeting and we know it's only a moment - thirteen days to be exact - but it is beautiful and perhaps makes it feel like it's worth it, for a second.  It's captured like a rare butterfly.  So I like that she chooses to end on it.  Unconventional, but ultimately, the perfect place to end.  Grief and all those other things are not easily remedied or resolved.  They don't go away.  But this fleeting moment of joy somehow feels like an adequate ending for a story that has no easy ending.

The idea of the different shaped holes in the Universe - a thought I've thought of people sometimes but never articulated.  Wonderful.

And also:

That first night, on the day that Sophie Mol came, Velutha watched his lover dress.  When she was ready she squatted facing him.  She touched him lightly with her fingers and left a trail of goosebumps on his skin.  Like flat chalk on a blackboard.  Like breeze in a paddyfield.  Like jet-streaks in a blue church sky.  He took her face in his hands and drew it towards his.  He closed his eyes and smelled her skin.  Ammu laughed.

Yes, Margaret, she thought.  We do it to each other too.

She kissed his closed eyes and stood up.  Velutha with his back against the mangosteen tree watched her walk away.

She had a dry rose in her hair.

She turned to say it once again: "Naaley."

Tomorrow.
--[pg. 321, God of Small Things]

One of the most perfect endings, ever.

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