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Harold Brodkey an appreciation

This is about “The Runaway Soul”, a novel that was almost universally slammed on publication¬† and has now disappeared into almost total oblivion. Critics felt it was unreadable and/or too self-obsessed for its own good. Only John Fowles, Salman Rushdie and I ever read it and liked it. Rushdie’s view is that you’ve got to read every single sentence (no mean feat) to appreciate it.

What I like about it is that it conveys precisely what it’s like to be alive.¬† I was mesmerised by the brilliant use of language as Brodkey describes living in the moment (the “clattering now”) and have kept that sense of being caught up in time’s flow ever since. Few books have changed my life but this one certainly did. Some of the characters are really well drawn, from a WASP patrician who embodies imperial America to a little girl who probably killed her brother.

I’ve never understood the reception this book received other than a kind of inverted snobbery and a reluctance to engage with¬† anything that might be challenging. It’s brilliant. Read it.

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