Wednesday, December 24, 2008
A curiously effective novel of love and lust--one of the best I've read not penned by John Hawkes. The story starts with young and dashing Robin, an English student of architecture touring the ruins of a Wright house in the American southwest. Immediately after a washroom tryst with another young man, Robin discovers his girlfriend is pregnant.
Flash forward 20 years, and we re-join Robin in a long-term relationship with an unfaithful man. Despite having met Justin cruising in London restrooms, Robin is unaware of his infidelities, even though Justin was seeing Alex at the time of their lav loving, and Justin left Alex to move into Robin's cabin in the sticks.
Justin invites his ex down to the cabin for a long weekend, mixing as motives sneering contempt, pity, and revenge. Alex meets Robin's son Danny, who is physically his father but carries his step-mum Justin's disregard for fidelity. Alex and Danny hook up and launch one of the most curious quadrangles in literary history.
I've read and admired Hollinghurst's reviews and criticism now and again, but hadn't read his fiction until now. I'll definitely re-visit him. The Spell is hilarious, disturbing, wrenching, and achingly beautiful. The novel is a strange thematic melange of John Hawkes and Michel Houllebecq.