Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Water Theatre

How is the world changed? The age old tension between outwardly directed social action and internally directed spiritual transformation is the underlying patterning of Lindsay Clarke's new novel.

Its central character, Martin, has purposefully become a successful television journalist in order to share with the world it most wounded, conflicted points. In doing so, however, he has become both addicted to the adrenalin of conflict and put aside his youthful sense of the meaning of things, shaped, in long abandoned, poetry.  His life has been shaped and merged with the life of a dysfunctional family whose four members have all paid a significant part in his making and unmaking; and, now in midlife, he confronts its three surviving members in search of both their reconciliation and a new strand of life.

What is always so beautifully captured by Clarke is how a realist novel of classic narrative form carries subtle metaphysical currents - dream and myth intertwine with this ordinary world in a way that conserves its normality, even when the events themselves appear/are of the order of ritual, as if the world when heightened into meaning takes on the character of sacred drama.

But there are here more personal themes - Martin's relationship with his father - awkward, distanced by Martin's aspirations and education and yet suffused on the father's side by a fierce unexpressed pride - reminds me of my own. His abandonment of an idealized world, suffused with a naive yet seeing joy, for the path of practical action (and a resolute if unthinking agnosticism) reminds me of a temptation I have suffered.

In reading it I am poised with wanting to finish it and not wanting it to end which seems to me the perfect praise for any book.

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