Sunday, 5 July 2009

Then there's the fiction of Patrick Hamilton, that gifted youth of slow unfolding literary wit. Hangover Square, in itself a beautiful title, is known as a fine work by a great minor novelist, seemingly never to be deemed a major novelist. These lines are drawn with tired hands in wet sands, but still they remain. But what credence is given to the canon, what hope can we hold out for anything in reading beyond resonance? Why should hierarchies remain between books? No, no more hierarchies, never again.

Everything is hungover in the book; the main character is constantly hungover (an effect of alcohol) but also hung over (burdened) by his preoccupations. The weather hangs upon low lines in the sky, bombers hang in the sky preparing for war, the city itself bears down upon all its characters, resting upon them like a thick smoke. War is nearly upon them, Sunday, September the third, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine. It hangs in the air, spouted from radios, inked across headlines. The idioms and idiocies of pre-war London, the debate and fear and fatalism and entire unknowing (of what would be) of an entire people is perfectly carved.

Hamilton's devices, the witching schizophrenia, the giddying flashes to an external character, the returning parallels, the monotony of locations the same but different - all work effortlessly. Netta - the object of the novel - is a compelling bitch, our protagonist George a perfectly balanced distraction of foolishness, pathos, humour, simplicity, canniness and world-wise intellect. All around him are fascism sympathisers, drunkards and aspiring socialites. He is satisfied to know this of everyone, to have faith in his outlook and yet, and yet, his compulsions towards Netta are unpreventable. George Bone is burnt into the page, some doppelgänger perhaps of Steinbeck's Lennie - a second way.

These enormous, lovable men that permeate English literature, characterised by those around them, characterised by those that would take advantage. In the end, fate writes these me into history as it does the fate of entire peoples guided from above, guided by hierarchies or politics. In this way bilocalities are formed, two places can coexist and the schizophrenia of men and lands is cast into the everyday.

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