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I dislike Utopias, Dystopias even More.

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” —Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  This has always been a favorite byword of mine, simply because I feel it true: symmetry has no true direction, no life, no flourish, is nearly a dead thing, stagnant.

Thus, having put off reading Robert Graves' Watch the North Wind Rise (Americian title, the English being Seven Days in New Crete), for decades, I was thrilled, non-plussed, confused, encouraged, and then discarded by it in succession.  A Utopian novel, even a great one, provides not solutions, but situations, not final states, but transitions, re-births and revisions, always material that defies stasis.

The protagonist functions as the "strangeness" that allows the Goddess to clean her household.  In simplest terms the book embodies the phrase "When it's brown, flush it down."  Graves says this much more eloquently, however, and often breaks into verse, making me wish he had done the whole in verse.  Once started, the reading progressed like wildfire with much chuckling over the wit, and happy gasps at the bold inventiveness of the story.

As Utopian novels go, an A plus work to my mind.  I think I would rather live there, or in Islandia, than here where I am now. However, all Utopias are Dystopias it seems, either straight away, or over time.  The  pains, frustrations, and deaths that accompany the serving of an inscrutable God or Goddess remain the same.  (And what, I wonder, has gender to do with the godhead creater of the vast cosmos?)  Well, who knows?  But what would a human story be like with no gender in the proportion? 

As much as I have valued the White Goddess, now that I am older her sway over me is waning, and I fear she will show me nothing more than her "hag" from here on out.  This reading did not dislodge my favorite U/D novel from its ruling throne. The ruler of course is Engine Summer by John Crowley.  And because it seems to offer some "reasonable" hope for our development.

I think I may be ready for a letter from Dr. Boots now.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 13th, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC)
I tried to get a copy of Watch the North Wind Rise after reading this, unfortunately it's not in print at the time. Have you ever read We by Samyatin? A weird bright looking dystopia.
Jun. 14th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
I usually resort to abe.com to find copies of these "obscure" books (or rather-- books with no mainstream sales potential). I haven't read WE, so thanks for adding another author (again) to my reading list! I will get a copy.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
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