The Line of Beauty

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Last night I finished The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, and true to the title, it was filled with lines of beauty. Like its namesake, Hogarth’s s-shaped Line of Beauty, the story is comprised of long curving sentences, so well-crafted that they feel like they could stand alone. But just as the words may be a thing of beauty, the s-shaped narrative (and syntax) also at times led my mind adrift and me to temporarily lose interest along the way. Nevertheless, the overall effect of the book is powerful. Set in the Thatcherite 80s amongst the snobby British elite, a young middle-class homosexual man, Nick Guest, steps into the dangers and hypocrisies of the times. Although it’s not a suspense or a who’s done it, I am reluctant to say more. Instead, I will give you one of my favorite lines from the beginning of the story,

In the course of their long conversations about men he had let one or two of his fantasies assume the status of fact, had lied a little, and had left some of Catherine’s assumptions about him unchallenged. His confessed but entirely imaginary seductions took on — partly through the special effort required to invent them and repeat them consistently — the quality of real memories. He sometimes had the sense, from a hint of reserve in people he was talking to, that while they didn’t believe him they saw he was beginning to believe himself.

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3 Comments

Filed under Literature

3 responses to “The Line of Beauty

  1. Borja

    Hey Eric, just a recommendation for your book list.

    I love the books edited by Ediciones Del Viento, they are of course in Spanish, but you can check the selection. Some of the most interesting to me are:

    Top of the World by Hans Ruesch
    Burmese Days by George Orwell
    El Arpa Birmana by Michio Takeyama

    Check this collection if you can. I bought the Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao will let you know my thoughts on it.

  2. eric

    Thanks Burbuja for the recommendations. I know (of) Burmese Days but not the other two. I do hope you enjoy Oscar Wao.

  3. Melissa

    Hey, Eric.

    Just saw this. I love that you read things that people recommend. It makes recommending such a joy! 🙂 And I love your observation about all of the s’s in the novel. Yay!

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