Friday, April 25, 2008

From The Bookshelf
I'm about a third of the way through John Barth's "The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor," a book of slight vintage (copyrighted in 1991) and, in the Barthian tradition, of great invention and humor. But my intent is not a review. It's to copy out a passage that I found particularly appealing.
At forty-two, Jane Price was a striking woman still, long and lean like their daughter though more amply tushed and breasted, an eye-turner yet in snug jeans and a sleeveless top that set off her fine arms and shoulders. Her sunglasses were perched stylishly atop her walnut hair, the more attractive for its seasoning with a touch of gray, as was her face for the crow's-feet forming at the corners of her eyes. Those eyes were the color but (in present company, at least) not the warmth of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, which So Far had crisscrossed for the past week; her tone was no warmer.
So Far is the bareboat charter rented by the narrator and his family for an off-season cruise in the Virgin Islands. I haven't bothered to determine where that channel is but it's immaterial to the passage of prose. I read that paragraph and I am enchanted. That sounds like as beautiful a woman as I could conjure for the circumstance - a "striking" (I think that's a wonderful word to describe an attractive woman) woman who is not merely aging with grace but with greater beauty still.
Of course this description comes in the midst of the narrator's telling of his (and her) infidelity. Perhaps that's all a part and parcel of the necessary dramatic tension. But I see that woman in my mind's eye and want to ask the narrator, "Are you nuts?"
After writing the above, I thought I might follow my own link to the Amazon page and cast an eye on the customer reviews. Interesting. The book would seem to be a bit polarizing. It rates four stars but it's divided between 11 five-star reviews and three one-star reviews. There are no three-star reviews. It seems the book is more generally loved but those who dislike it, hate it. Nothing "meh" about this one it seems.

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