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The Line Of Beauty (2015)

The Line of Beauty (2015)

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3.67 of 5 Votes: 3
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0739464469 (ISBN13: 9780739464465)

About book The Line Of Beauty (2015)

I started this last night, heading home after one of the most dreadful evenings in recent memory.So lately my life does seem like a pot of thick, scalding acrid coffee; I read books in the hope that they'll help me choke it down. But for some reason everything I pick up lately's been unsatisfying, like skim milk or soy. It might take the edge off, but not nicely, and with some of this stuff I think I might be better off drinking the coffee black. That Martin Amis is like some synthetic creamer, with an artificial flavor that's kind of alluringly disgusting.... I keep drinking this shit because I have to. But it doesn't taste good.Anyway, riding back home half-drunk from a novelistically bad party, I opened The Line of Beauty, and started to read. I'd put this on my to-read list ages ago after pillaging a beloved professor's Amazon reviews, and reviews by terrifyingly-literate-Eric-of-the-drink-and-wide-smirk have recently pushed Hollinghurst back into my mind.This man's writing is like cream you only get at the farm. I am holding my mug underneath the cow's teat here, I guess, while Farmer Alan squirts this magical substance in. It's like smooth white gold, a dream mouthful, delicious. This coffee tastes fabulous. I could drink it all day.Maybe that's a gross metaphor, just wrong or too dumb. And yeah, I'm only fifty pages in, but seriously, he writes like a dream. It's been awhile since I've started anything that felt this good. Late last night finishing a cigarette on the fire escape, inventorying the bitter, dark, stinking thing that's my life these days, I tried to think of promising reasons to wake up in the morning, to drink literal coffee and walk out the door. And when I thought of reading more of this novel, I got really excited. Because honestly it kind of doesn't matter if your life's watery burnt crap, if you're reading something good enough, you can usually get by.I hope this book lives up to its promising opening. But even if it doesn't, I'm grateful for the feeling. Sometimes you have a bad run when no books can engage you, and you start to wonder what the point of reading is, if it's anything more than a banal time-filling hobby. Like is this any better than playing games on my cellphone? Am I not just killing time on my daily commute? I love being reminded that that's not it at all. We read to save our mouths from burning, we read to slow the ulcers. We read because we have to, because otherwise this cupful's just too rank to swallow.****Okay, I'm done. I have accomplished little this week besides reading this book. I looked forward to commutes, took the local train instead of the express; I waited for buses and elevators when I normally would've walked, and showed up early at dinner dates so I'd have time first to read.My main impression while reading was an image of Alan Hollinghurst encountering The English Language one night on a stroll through the park. I pictured him coaxing it into some unlit shrubbery, and then gently but manfully bending The English Language over against an oak tree, sort of holding it there, unzipping his trousers, and masterfully -- generously -- turning it gay.God, these ENGLISH and their NOVELS. How do they do it? A lot of sentences in here made me feel I should stop embarrassing myself and degrading the language by writing any more sentences of my own. Of course, I used to say that about Ian McEwan, but Hollinghurst can make McEwan sort of look like a hack. Maybe McEwan should stop writing sentences too! The only reason McEwan's more famous must be because his TMI sex scenes tend not to be gay, and a lot of people really are inexplicably freaked out by gay male sex.Not this reader! The sex in the opening (and best) section of the novel conveys the thrill of first love and being young and the figuring of that stuff out with a touching accuracy that many writers have shot for but few have so successfully nailed. This is a book that would make E. M. Forster blush, not just for being too graphic for his era's sensibility, but because he might've wished he'd lived long enough to have written it. To me this was about as good as a Forster novel, which is HIGH PRAISE, FRIEND! I almost never say dumb stuff like that.... how embarrassing.... Actually I guess it's supposed to be Jamesian, as the protagonist's a James scholar/fanboy, but it's been so long since I've read James, and I've read so little, that I really don't know if this was Jamesian or not. I do think though that The Line of Beauty might've helped heal me from the ancient thwarting trauma of trying to read The Awkward Age in college, so maybe I'll give the old guy another chance...Anyway, where was I? What was I saying? Oh, I was fawning and drooling all over this book, and it was frankly pathetic. Obviously not everyone would love this as much as I did. It's a very straightforward novel set in Thatcher-era England, following the winkingly-named Nick Guest, a middle-class gay aesthete who has insinuated himself, though his friendship with an Oxford classmate, into the very wealthy household of a Tory MP. It takes place between the years 1983 and 1987, and follows Nick's relationship with the family, his romances and sexual development, his preoccupations with beauty and pleasure, and some other stuff.... You know, it's your fairly standard kind of thing, I just thought it was spectacularly well-written. The plot developments and characters were predictable and I could see how one might argue they were cliched, but somehow even this kind of worked for me, and made it seem more like an older novel, in a good way. I guess I could've done without all the drugs -- why do drugs follow me everywhere I go? I'll be reading the classiest, most seemingly together book, and all of a sudden the author pulls out a bag! -- but I guess that's what I get for picking up a novel about rich people in the eighties.There were a few things here I wasn't so crazy about. For one thing, while I must applaud Alan Hollingsworth's discovery of the adverb "illusionlessly," which truly is precious -- even priceless -- when used to describe a facial expression or tone of voice, I wish someone had told him he could only use it once. Maybe twice.... but not every thirty pages! Alan! Restrain yourself! Please! There were a couple things in here like that, overuse of certain words, and while on some I'll give him a who-knows-how-rich-people-talk-over-there-not-me pass on some (such as "longing"), the language was so gorgeous and memorable and almost perfect to me, that the exceptions glared out. Isn't this what editors are for? To count frequency of use for your favorite pet words, and make you cut down? I feel like you tend to see this problem more in short story books; it's less forgivable in a novel. Maybe I am missing some in-joke about Henry James, who used these particular words ceaselessly, and I just don't get it. Still. Oh, but I only complain because otherwise I'd melt! There were sentences in here that made me cry. As you may know, I do cry easily, but it's not usually just from sentences. There were a few in here, man.... whew. Oh boy.The other, potentially more serious thing I took issue with here was towards the end, when the book got all plotty and reached what I felt was an unnecessary and awkwardly clunky climax. I like the kind of books I can only assume Hollinghurst also likes in large part because they don't ruin themselves with plots. I'm obsessed lately with the idea that some compulsion to plot often prevents an author telling the real story. I think that happened here, somewhat. The events felt distracting from what was really going on, and just on the whole, the more that was happening the less masterfully it was handled.Nick Guest is really an incredible main character. Reading this gave me the first faint interest in rereading Gatsby for the first time since high school, because I feel like there's a joke there and I want to get it. Isn't the main character in that Nick too? Anyway, the way he makes this guy and the relationship I developed with him as the reader was just awesome in the older sense of the term. I was awed by it, really. I'm embarrassed by this review. I'm nervous about all this gushing because I don't want everyone to run out and get this and then be like, "What's your problem, Jessica? Why the fuss, psycho?" I guess a lot of this just appealed to certain of my own sensibilities. If, for instance, you are somehow not captivated by gay male sexuality, Thatcherite England, or novels about rich people, you might not love this. There! You have been warned. But seriously: you're not into that stuff? Really? How can you not be? Maybe YOU'RE the one with the problem, you ever think of that?Anyway, I'm dawdling because I'm not that excited about going to bed right now. I'm truly dreading tomorrow's commute to work for the first time this week. Where can I go from this? Middlemarch? I think it might be time. This is the first book that's really made me feel this way since the end of that affair with Proust all those many months ago, and I just can't see a rebound now with some random library pickup. I guess I'll have to try a classic, and hope for the best.... High praise again: truly, a tough book to follow.

3.5 stars rounded upBooker prize winner in 2004, Hollinghurst writes about the 1980s and more particularly about Thatcher’s Britain and the onset of HIV/AIDS. It is the story of Nick Guest, a young gay man from a middle class background. He meets the son (Toby) of a rising Tory MP (Gerald Fedden) at Oxford and after graduating moves in with Toby’s family as a lodger.The backdrop is London of the 1980s. Nick moves in glamorous circles and the line of beauty goes back to Hogarth’s s shaped curve in his book. It runs through the book via Henry James, (Nick is studying him at post-grad level) to cocaine; another beautiful line in the book and on to the concept of beauty in physical terms. For Nick this is male beauty. Against the glamour and the wealth is a political backdrop of the conservatives in power. The shadow of Thatcher is never far away as Gerald works hard to ingratiate himself and gain political power. Nick’s sexuality is also to the fore as we follow him through two relationships; with Leo who is black and working class and Wani who is very rich and Lebanese. The spectre of AIDS gradually grows as the book goes on, although it does not really affect the Fedden’s and their political circles, nor the sections of the upper class they mix with. It’s all beautifully written and Hollinghurst captures an aspect of the culture of the time very well. Nick is an amiable narrator who seems to drift through the book without being too greatly affected by it all. Inevitably comparisons have been made with other works. I can see the similarities to Brideshead Revisited, less so to Maurice. The more obvious comparison is to Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time series, but it doesn’t have the scope and depth Powell gave to his series. There was, for me, hollowness at the centre. Nick is amiable, but for me his character is summed up by an incident near the end of the book. He goes into a bar and sees someone he had a relationship with earlier in the book. This someone is gaunt, very ill, and dying of an AIDS related illness. Nick avoids him and manages to leave without being seen. He manages to drift through the lives of the Fedden’s and their circle with few moral qualms. I do remember the 80s; I was living in the north of England, mostly in working class and mining areas; the Tories and Thatcher were the enemy. It was difficult to engage with any of the characters, apart from Leo; but it does capture a place and time.

Do You like book The Line Of Beauty (2015)?

The double curve was Hogarth’s ‘line of beauty’, the snakelike flicker of an instinct, of two compulsions held in one unfolding movement. - Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty. Alan Hollinghurst’s fourth novel, The Line of Beauty, was the surprise winner of the 2004 Booker Prize, beating out such lofty competition as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Hollinghurst’s books are usually set in an England of the recent past, and feature gay male main characters. His novels explore the interconnectedness and conflicts between art and society, love, sexuality, and desire.The Line of Beauty opens in 1983 when its young protagonist Nick Guest’s sexual experience seems to be limited to unrequited lust for his Oxford friend, the handsome and athletic Toby Fedden. Toby is the son of a newly-elected Tory MP, Gerald Fedden. Nick moves into the Feddens London home, located in exclusive Kensington Park Gardens. Nick becomes particularly close to the women of the family, Gerald’s well-connected wife Rachel, and mentally unstable daughter Catherine. Yet his position in Fedden home is ambiguous at best. Outsiders are perplexed by their relationship. Nick's conventional middle-class parents are worried by their son's connection to such a powerful family, and try to discourage it. Nick’s literary idol is Henry James. The young man himself could be a character from a James novel, a cooly-observing outsider who is able to charm his way into a world in which he obviously does not belong. The son of a modest antiques dealer, Nick is able to call upon his knowledge of art, antiques, and architecture to ingratiate himself further with the rich. Though at times he may affect a certain superiority, it is clear that Nick has been seduced by his proximity to the intersecting worlds of wealth and politics. The Line of Beauty is very much about how the political culture of Thatcher’s Britain influenced the wider culture of the mid-1980s. The greed and self-interest of the country’s new ruling elite creates a sense of general amorality. Beneath a veneer of social conservatism, drugs and other illicit activities flourish. In one of the novel’s most memorable moments, fresh from a drug-fueled sexual escapade, Nick convinces the “Iron Lady” herself to join him on the dance floor at a party for the Tory inner circle. Readers apparently disagree about Nick Guest. Is he villain or victim? I would argue he is likely a bit of both. He may be charming and manipulative, yet on some deeper level, he is an oblivious innocent. His fantasy of people like the Feddens blinds him to their often dubious actions. In the tradition of Henry James, The Line of Beauty is a stunning and subtle tale of a young man coming of age in a beautiful, dangerous world.

I had heard great things about this book, so it was disappointing that I simply could not get into it. Hollinghurst’s prose is fluid and lovely, and there are certainly many moments that seem very authentic. Not a lot happened, but that's not a major issue for me if I get invested in a novel's characters. But characterization was the weak spot here. Hollinghurst maintains an evasive kind of distance from the (affected, largely shallow) characters that kept me from caring for them. The only character I felt like I got to know at all was Nick, and well, there just wasn't much substance there either. He struck me as such a passive character, just sort of floating through the time period, with a vague appreciation for beauty but no real passion for anything but sex. Having read this novel and The Stranger's Child, I think it is fair to say that Hollinghurst is not for me. Talented, yes, but his characters leave me cold.

I enjoyed this enormously. Hollinghurst is a great stylist and his debt to Henry James, suggested throughout (the protagonist is writing a thesis on 'The Master'), is always evident. Best of all is his subtle but uncompromising social satire: few of the characteres are particularly sympathetic but all are energetically realised and very believable. There are some terrific set-pieces: an aristocratic twenty-first birthday, awkward introductions of gay lovers to parents who don't know (or won't admit)their son's sexuality, a London MP's unease on visiting his rural constituency and on having to take part in welly-throwing. 'The Line Of Beauty' paints a compelling picture of privileged life in 80s England -- but the privilege is precarious. Considering AIDS, the boom in cocaine use, and parlimentary scandal, this is nonetheless much more than mere social documentation. At times I felt the symbolism suggested by the title became a bit strained and occasionally I had the sense that Hollinghurst was overindulging in his ornate style. These are minor quibbles, however, about a book I was often reluctant to put down.

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