"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

This Week - Some Race Results,Training, Book Review

The early reports from the Superior Sawtooth 100 are in and John Horns won in 24-something, having started at a blistering pace in his first 100. Adam Schwartz-Lowe was second, also under 25 hours. Some others, first-timers, who finished and who may post reports are Scott Mark, Jordan Hanlon, Matt Lutz and Ed Sandor. Matt Patten and Kevin Grabowski dropped; I haven't head about Ross Jilk (who sounds like he was behind the 38:00 cut-off if he didn't drop).

Grandma's Minnesota Mile was today, the winning time 4:04 and the guy I want to beat ran 4:35 (and I'm in about 5:40 shape at the moment.. Grrrr. Next year!)


Monday 5 in 39
Tuesday 5 in 40
Wednesday 5 in 40
Thursday 0
Friday 5 in 41
Saturday 3 in 23
Sunday 5 in 40

Sort of monotonous, but I'm running 8:00/mile, whereas I was running 10:30 in May. I'll take it.

I Read'em Book

I just completed reading "Possession: A Romance" by A.S. Byatt. This must have been a very challenging work to write and the author has to be commended on taking a chance when so much literature at the moment is pulp fiction or very short experiments. A romance differs from a novel in that it allows the extremely unlikely to occur and doesn't have to follow strict logic, as long as the theme and tone are kept.

The book fails as a novel. It becomes epistolary in the middle, a form of novel that had its moment in the time of "Clarissa," but which is centuries past its due date now. The two main characters are not memorable - I struggle to recall their names - and they are meant to parallel the two authors whose works they are investigating, which is a rather forced and obvious writer's trick. Their interest in each other seems forced.

The real challenge of the work is that she (A.S. stands for Antonia Susan) has to write poems in the different styles of the two poets, one of whom is supposed to be a world-famous forerunner of modernism and the other a mystical fabulist. The poems, of both types, are execrable. It is impossible to believe that several people would devote their lives to following the minutiae of their lives, though the details of academic rivalry and obsession ring true. She also has to write letters by both to the other; these do not seem like the same authors (which is partly the point - the faces shown to each other is different from the public ones) and slow the book to a crawl.

There's a twist of plot in the end that one could see 450 pages in advance, involving a coincidence that can only be called "romantic."

But does it work as a romance? The theme is the title: Possession, which is both meant in the ownership of the documents everyone wants, the ownership of little niches of scholarship and the ownership of one's own history and personal life as well as in "possession" by something, used in the sense of being obsessed with something to the point of being controlled by it. There are moments where this second meaning manifests itself, such as three different people, two simultaneously, needing to see if one can really see the fish beneath the ice, as described in one poem. The various characters, mostly caricatures (the American is particularly sketchy), are consumed with their work and the objects which support it, and thus are possessed. The theme, however, should have an emotional tone in a romance, and here it does not.

Byatt can write some splendid descriptive sentences, but they do not provide enough reason to read this book. She has talent, she has aspiration, she just doesn't have a complete work.


Xenia said...

It's been a while since I've read the book, but everything you've written here rings true for me. You should see the movie adaptation. The modern story is complete crap in that, but the historical storyline was made more palatable with the presence of Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam.

Ross said...

Ross was completely unprepared for what he had gotten himself into. He dropped at Finland and immediately started working out a comeback strategy. I'm sure he'll have more to say in a day or two.

SteveQ said...

@Xenia: there was a movie version? I never heard about it - it must not have zombies or masked Mexican wrestlers.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Thanks for the warning about the crappy book. Byatt? Pffffttt! I wouldn't even rent it (or take it out of the library) based on this review!

Matt Lutz said...

Thanks for the nod - it was a hell of a race. My report is up: http://bit.ly/nxyxeh

Diana said...

Wow, not an overly positive review of the book. I absolutely love this book, or at least I remember loving it when I read it about ten years ago.
I read her newest book, The Children's Book, last year and thought it was a great novel overall. If you can stomach reading another one of her books, maybe you would like that one more. I'm a sucker for the Arts and Crafts movement, though, and she examines that in some detail.

Scott said...

My report is up at http://runlikemonkey.com/2011/09/22/2011-superior-trail-100-mile-race-report

Ross, Matt and I all had "unique" Superior 100 experiences this year and reaffirmed the bad-ass-ness of that event in our own ways.

Bummer you didn't make it up that weekend, would have beeen fun to see you.