Sunday, June 14, 2009
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
There's this idea that, if a book hopes to attain a certain elevated status, it has to be full of Deeper Significance for the reader. That there must be some Incredible Insight into the human situation, all the better if it's drawn out in Hidden Meanings, Literary Devices, and Extended Metaphors. And finally, that we must be able to Take Something Away from the book when we're done with it.
Screw all that. The best books are ones that you never want to be done with, that are too short despite being a thousand pages long, that you think about all day and open again the first second you have a chance.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell may very well have something to say about the human condition. But I don't care. If it does, it seeped its way into my subconscious, or I will pick it up the second time through (oh, there will be a second time through -- hopefully after I have forgotten enough to be able to rediscover some of the delights of the first time through). This book is a damn fine piece of writing. And that's good enough for me.