Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Praise the wonders of time for non-school books!

So, the other night I found myself in between books, having just finished the last Senior Lit book and not yet acquired the new one. Accordingly, I picked up The Gate of Angels, by Penelope Fitzgerald. And now I've just finished it. It's a very strange little book, and probably the only reason I managed to finish it is that it is so little--only 167 pages. It tells the story of Fred Fairly, who is a Junior Fellow of the smallest college at Cambridge in 1912, St. Angelicus. His college doesn't allow women to set foot on the premises, was founded by a pope who was later removed from his pope-hood (there must be a better way to put that), and has no sort of modern amenities at all and no rooms for the students. He is also not allowed to marry. And then he gets into a crash with a horsecart and a woman on a bicycle, whom he later wakes up to find himself in bed with. And it all goes on from there.

There is nothing the least bit complicated about the plot, though things do not always come in quite the right order. There are a series of rather strange characters, but unusually they are strange in a very normal way--not at all over the top, not even especially vivid, just strange. It's written in an unusual style, though I don't mean the writing, I mean that it doesn't quite flow. It is definitely put together deliberately, but not in the usual method of a novel. It has no concrete beginning, and the end is extremely abrupt, although not without managing to wrap things up well. It is simply a cutout of these characters' lives, just episodes put together, sometimes with no apparent relevance to the plot (assuming there is one).

Anyway, I enjoyed it very much, since it appealed to my love of reading about Oxford and Cambridge and their whole culture. I'd quite like to read more of Penelope Fitzgerald's books.

Next up on the reading list is The Things They Carried by Tim Obrien, and also the Iliad.

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