Might Read

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  • by Frank Paynter on August 27, 2024

    From “The End of Irony,” Meghan O’Rourke’s review of Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children in this morning’s NYT Sunday Book Review

    “The Emperor’s Children” is, on its surface, a stingingly observant novel about the facades of the chattering class — with its loves, ambitions and petty betrayals — but it is also, more profoundly, about a wholesale collision of values: those of the truth-telling but hypocritical Murray Thwaite, who epitomizes earnest 1960’s liberalism, and the Machiavellian Seeley, who represents postmodernism and its assumption that truth is fungible. The metaphorical pawn in their struggle — a struggle over status — is Bootie Tubb, who is too young to accept that he lives in a world of filigreed self-absorption rather than pragmatic transcendentalism, and who rightly sees Murray’s self-satisfaction for what it is. And so Bootie — poor, clueless Bootie — becomes both the novel’s antihero and its hero, setting out to expose Murray by writing a tell-all article for Seeley’s new magazine.

    Based on the lengthy excerpt here, I’m guessing the Messud wrote but did not read this novel, making it a good early draft. I wish she had cleaned it up before release. Ah well, all is beta.

    I liked the proximate juxtaposition of “aubergine” with “Aborigines.” More of those and one could forgive the overwhelming turgidity, evidenced in sentences like:

    Having spent half an hour putting on her face in front of the grainy mirror of Moira and John’s bathroom, ogling her imperfections and applying vigorous remedial spackle-beneath which her weary, olive-shaped eyes were pouched by bluish bags, the curves of her nostrils oddly red, and her high forehead peeling-she had no intention of revealing to strangers the disintegration beneath her paint.

    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Leslie 08.27.06 at 8:55

    Someone should have submitted that for the Bulwer-Lytton contest. Yikes! Where was her editor, hiding under the desk?

    madame l. 08.28.06 at 1:37

    i’m pulling a rueful moue, Doll.
    is that boneless breast of emperor i’m tasting?

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