Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A San Francisco story

Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate is a novel in verse, like Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. Seth uses the sonnet form throughout, including in his acknowledgement, dedication, and
list of contents:

The world's discussed while friends are eating.
A cache of billets-doux arrive.
A concert generates a meeting.
A house is warmed. Sheep come alive.
Olives are picked in prime condition.
A cat reacts to competition.
Arrests occur. A speech is made.
Coffee is drunk, and Scrabble played.
A quarrel is initiated.
Vines rest in early winter light.
The Winking Owl fills up the night.
An old affair is renovated.
Friends meditate on friends who've gone.
The months go by; the world goes on.


The rhyme scheme used is abab, ccdd, effe, gg. The book is a masterly effort at capturing a bit of the American way of life during the glorious days of the IT industry. Seth meditates on
the loneliness of lost love in a style that's characteristically his. Language that is lyrical yet sparse (An Equal Music). Twice jilted in love, once by incompatibility and then by fate, John's pain is described thus:

Depleted by his pain, he slowly
Walks to Jan's desk. What did not last
In life has now possessed him wholly.
Nothing can mitigate the past.
He gently touches Jan's sand dollar.
It soothes him in the ache, the squalor
That is his life, and she seems near
Him once again, and he can hear
Her voice, can almost hear her saying,
"I'm with you, John. You're not alone.
Trust me, my friend; there is the phone.
It isn't me you are obeying.
Pay what are your own heart's arrears.
Now clear your throat, and dry those tears."

Michael Symmons Roberts's top 10 verse novels

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