Saturday, August 21, 2004


I'm 70 pages into Elizabeth Hand's Mortal Love. Thus far it is fascinating, with the three storylines of equal vigor, although I'm not quite sure why the second, following actor Valentine Comstock, is in first person rather than third, like the other two, but perhaps I should find out. The beauty of the descriptions lies in their tactile nature. The images are not necessarily images that resonate, but they are fecund images that are almost four-dimensional in their sensuality. For example:

"It was like Aladdin's cave. Or Madonna's. On one side hung floor-length dresses of burned velvet and satin and pale gray eelskin, black lace sheaths fringed with feathers or sewn with scales, shimmering peignoirs so fine they looked as though they would melt on the tongue. There was a gown made entirely of orange cock-of-the-rock plumage and another of hummingbird feathers...nothing his mother had owned ever smelled like this--opium and new leather and beeswax, musk and sea wrack."

The woman who haunts all three threads, Decadent era, recent past, and present, is wonderfully robust and physical--not ghostly, not ethereal. And yet, there is a little niggling worry in the back of my head: it's not all going to turn out to be a personification of the muse story, spread over 300 pages, is it? Because if it is, then not all the great description in the world is gonna save it. But, we shall see--with any luck it's something much more marvelous than that.



Post a Comment

<< Home