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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Poor Things - Alasdair Gray BkC 154Rating: 3* of fiveThe Book Description: With its tantalizing reminders of Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Lewis Carroll, this is an up-to-date nineteenth-century novel, informed by a thoroughly twentieth-century sensibility. Set in and around Glasgow and the Mediterranean in the early 1880s, it describes the love lives of two Scottish doctors and a twenty-five-year-old woman who has been created by one of them from human remains. A story of true love and scientific daring, it whirls the reader from the private operating rooms of late-Victorian Glasgow through aristocratic casinos, low-life Alexandria, and a Parisian bordello, reaching an interrupted climax in a Scottish church. It contains many unsanctified weddings, but hardly any perversions, and, as The Spectator put it, "an unexpected final twist doesn't make the novel seem trivial but, on the contrary, gives the vivid melodrama a retrospective gravity. You become aware that this odd book has been a great deal more than entertaining only on finishing it. Then your strongest desire is to start reading it again."My Review: Arch. Witty at times, fall-down funny once or twice. But when I think of this book, as I seldom do, the word resounding through my head is, "Arch."There is something of the old-time gay subculture campiness, now fast disappearing in this day of mainstreaming, gaybies, and marriage equality on the march, about this erudite man's hommage to the Gothic romantic classic Frankenstein. NB I did not just imply Gray is a gay man. It's an irreverence for the venerated objects of culture, an inside-outing of tradition, that seems to me less and less to be found, to the great impoverishment of culture in general. Gray has done that here, has in this book sexualized the myth of Frankenstein's monster in a kind of appreciative send-up of both the sexual obsession of modern readers and the repression-through-action of Victorian ones. The exotic Mediterranean locales, specifically the louche climes of Alexandria, the successor to then-Austrian-ruled Venice as the wickedness capital of the world, make the story feel of the time. The aura of sinful wickedness is period as well. The narrative, and its ending, are 20th-century approved...and probably the best bit of the book.I take off an entire star, though, for the sheer wearing endless sameness of the arch tone. Put that eyebrow back down, sir! Uncrook that pinky! Alas, he never does. 'Tis a pity.