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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • March 08, 2006


    [29] The Spell - Alan Hollinghurst

    Unlike The Line of Beauty, Hollinghurst's most recent release, which affords the usual elegant prose of the story of a young man under the roof of a Parliament member during Margaret Thatcher's England, The Spell is almost completely rid of political overtone. Tinged with pique and cross-purpose jokes, page by page the novel weaves a tapestry of love, lust, and loss among a group of middle-class gay Englishmen who are friends, ex-lovers, father and son. In exploring each of these relations and the uneasy conflicts, Hollinghurst's elegant, crisp prose fosters a sharp observation and psychological insight that accentuate these men's vulnerability.

    Close reading of The Spell reveals a very fine-tuned delineation of each of the four men, whose personalities and struggles incontrovertibly pervade in many of us. The story kicks off when the 36-years-old Alex accepts invitation from his ex-boyfriend Justin to spend a weekend in the country home with his new lover Robin, a forty-something gay dad. The prose lends its abrupt nature to the suspicion that Justin must out of his guilty respect for Alex's feelings to extend the solicitous invitation. But Alex is mellow and meek - he can never blame Justin for capriciously leaving him. He still misses Justin despite of the devastating evidence that what his friends hostilely say about him is vindicated. From the weekend gathering Hollinghurst probes the topography of the hearts of these men.

    That Hollinghurst is able to capture the terrain of his characters' emotional and mental struggle through the intimacy of their thoughts touches me. The novel is an immediate warm attachment to my heart. Even though Alex is constantly in people's company, the companionship and the bar scenes compound his loneliness and amplify his depression. Alex's absence of any allusion to his ex-lover's new love is clear sign of how upset he might be. No sooner has he arrived than he regrets of taking up the invitation because he has to hide how wounded he is by Justin, and thrives to sustain the right pitch of pretended toward Robin. What ultimately dooms him is the cruel reality of his failure in relationship, that no other man will want him and to fall in love with him. This is not easy for someone like Alex who is serious, cultured, someone who wears his sleeve out in a relationship, and that one relationship into which he imbues all his hope breaks his heart. That commitment and innocence shall meet a reckless betrayal in the end must arouse sympathy.

    Hollinghurst's novel is never deprived of drug escapade. At the crossroad of relationship, Alex insouciantly drops a tab of ecstasy, provided by Robin's gay son, and plunges into the rave, high-energy, substance-fuelled London club scenes. Alex embraces nightlife as if it might promise a love life that is not as checkered. Under the power of the E pill, Alex has no regret of his late-booming hedonism in which he gropes in an unbridled way different kinds of happiness. As he dawns on his self-discovery through the liberation, the shock of seeing Alex again brings about Justin a quiet bout of vexation, undulation, whoofs of lust, and puzzled fondness. Reunion with Alex and his fight with Robin seizes Justin with the grip of scruple over his momentary caprice that sometimes can cause a horrid nuisance in someone else's life.

    The Spell with the outward blowsy parties and carefree affairs is endowed with an undertow of finding true love. It embraces the longing for a soul mate despite a humanistic thirst for carnal deviance. It maps out different paths in life taken by various men. The path could be one that has been gripped and shaped by sexual lore, or one that witnesses the constant indispensable presence of lovers, or one that relishes the deceits and the success of which delivers a sense of competence.


    Blogger Kursk said...


    it's my pleasure to be linked by you.

    3/08/2006 7:43 PM  
    Anonymous janie said...

    Thank you for writing this wonderful review. Then I enjoyed reading quite a bit of your blog. Are you a writer, as your book review seemed so professional?

    12/31/2007 1:38 PM  
    Anonymous American Attorneys said...

    wonderful review I enjoy it a lot.
    this book most be awesome, I love gay stories because they suffer a lot in this society

    5/08/2011 12:45 PM  

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