Sunday, November 23, 2008

Octavian Nothing volume 1 redux

I have only finished rereading the first part of four in this volume, and already I am newly eager to discover what happens in the second volume.

The writing in this book is wonderful, and is reminding me of the difference a
strong voice can make in a story.

I believe I mentioned the first time the sense of the fantastic that is drawn out of natural events. Octavian opens:

I was raised in a gaunt house with a garden; my earliest recollections are of floating lights in the apple-trees. [...]

The men who raised me were lords of matter, and in the dim chambers I watched as they traced the spinning of bodies celestial in vast, iron courses, and bid sparks to dance upon their hands; they read the bodies of fish as if each dying trout or shad was a fresh Biblical Testament, the wet and twiching volume of a new-born Pentateuch. They burned holes in the air, wrote poems of love, sucked the venom from sores, painted landscapes of gloom, and made metal sing; they dissected fire like newts.

We go on to meet the larger-than-life characters of Octavian's childhood: his mother, whose royal dignity never falters despite her chains; his tutors, who sardonically comment on the times while doing little to change them; the passionless man who owns him, and Octavian, whose presence is always felt, even when off-stage.

On rereading it, I am also picking up more subtle threads: Octavian's mother cannot be as happy as she appears; does her hand betray delight, as Octavian takes it, or fear for her son, the chain by which she is bound?

I hope to have more to say after volume 2.

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