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September 9, 2013 | by  | in Arts Books |
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The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Alex Hollis:

Phillliipppp.

“Total Fines: $200.00”

UNIMPRESSED FACE. Can’t get out any more books!!

Seriously, dude. Return them, pay the fines, ASAP. Like, now.

Philip McSweeney:

I’M SORRY

I’LL RETURN THEM

I PROMISE

PROFUSE APOLOGIES

AH:

I hate you. So much. But also finished The Luminaries.

Idk. What do we think?

The first thing that leapt out was the conceit; the whole astrological thing governing the characters & how the sections are presented

which seems to indicate a sense of the events in the novel being governed by ~larger things~

(wait, no the first thing that leapt out was that it’s huuuggge)

but I think the conceit only came into its own at the end; for the first 750 pages had little bearing on the plot & seemed largely superfluous

PMS:

I totally agree! It felt really awkward, & the nods to it (the travesty of the seance, implication that whatserface could read the future) only compounded how pointless it seemed.

But, even if it is a flaw it’s an AMBITIOUS one; the whole novel is brimming with it, and i was really impressed by the authentic representation (homegrrl obviously did her research) and especially the sociological history that she didn’t shy away from. Like, Maori and Chinese peoples were represented in accordance with their population ratios to Pakeha at the time, and their representation managed to avoid appropriation or (even worse god forbid) tedious sanctimony

AH:

Yeah I was happy with that representation. Felt pretty bang-on, historically.

I was definitely sucked into the world & I liked the plot; it was super intricate, really intertwined, deploying tension at just the right moments.

Like, we see certain things from multiple perspectives, but rather than this seeming like repetition it becomes a tool for character development; some people remember some things, or see stuff in a different way.

So instead of slowing down the plot it progresses it.

PMS:

I KNOW the form was incredible, i loved the structure of the parts and their diminishing lengths. Really effective, especially as you get to the home stretch! it was a study of perspective definitely, and a mostly convincing one (some of the coincidences and misunderstandings were a bit overwrought perhaps)

AH:

“the home stretch”: idk.

I feel like it was simultaneously where the conceit became fucking wonderful, and quite anticlimactic. We finish the plot and then have like 100 pages of backstory??

PMS:

I liked the shift, very Dickensian with how she started embedding the action in the plot starter thingys (which reminded me of Nabokov’s hiding the novel of Pale Fire in the footnotes) and which captured the Victorian Lit pastiche element real gud

AH:

the embedding was wonderful; it brought the chapters themselves into a new space

but I just

wasn’t sure bout the change in direction

PMS:

BUT U JUST

but it wasn’t abrupt was it?

p. gradually brought in i mean

AH:

yes but

once we’ve left the main action & gone completely into the past

what’s the purpose of that?

I felt like it was meant to convey this tragic love plot, like ~they were meant to be together~

but this was somewhat diluted by the character of the gold rush/the west coast

the people were too *real* to be star-crossed lovers

might be that the ~tragic hero~ was missing most of the time

so he was a bit of a cipher

PMS:

idk i felt like it tied up loose ends really well and really grippingly, and knowing their eventual fate turned up the dramatic irony knob to eleven

idk in a weird way its flaws make me like it more just because the book, like its characters, ends up being enigmatic. Next to Morrieson’s The Scarecrow and Owls Do Cry (obvi) i think it’s the closest contender to a ‘great New Zealand novel’ i’ve read :’)

AH:

when you were like 200 pages through the book

you were like

GREAT NEW ZEALAND NOVEL

but then a couple of days later you didn’t seem so certain?

PMS:

RAMPANT HYPERBOLE IK

AH:

it certainly is a contender

PMS:

Yeah it sagged a bit in the middle, too much goddamn exposition

AH:

it’s up there, imo

altho I didn’t think it was perfect

I thought it was very, very good

PMS:

well that’s all i need (omg joni mitchell reference)

also do i have to pay your library fines

AH:

YES

HELL YES

ALL OF THEM

ALL $200 OF THEM

Also

He was sitting in the lounge of the Empire Hotel

He was drinking for diversion

He was thinking for himself

A little money riding on the Maple Leafs

Along comes a lady in lacy sleeves

if ‘Raised on Robbery’ isn’t The Luminaries, idk what is.

PMS:

PERFECT (y)

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