Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Golden Gate - Vikram Seth

The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth is the most funny, irreverent book I have read in recent days.

I though that a novel completely written in tetrameter sonnets -690 of them- must be difficult to read and never really thought about picking up the book. When I was gifted (I assume not lent) the book I started it with some apprehension. Initially I read each sonnet and marvelled at the brilliance of Seth in rhyming so many words and yet carrying the story forward. Slowly I was engrossed in the story and forgot that it was written in verse. That is the success of Seth as a poet and novelist.

The story is about a group of yuppies in California and their affairs. It was as far as it can be from the world I live in, yet Seth succeeded in keeping me interested till the end. The book is full of fun and wit. The line that hooked me was

Their music was a throttled yelp-
Morse crossed with a pig's squeal for help.


After laughing out loud, I was a convert. I especially liked the interludes where he breaks the narrative and talks directly to the reader. A must read book, if only to marvel at Vikram Seth's skill.

7 comments:

varali said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! Poetry that is so unselfconscious that you forget it is poetry. Poetry that is so brilliantly crafted as to make it appear effortless. Not once do the plot, the characterisation, the descriptions suffer from being limited by form.

I wish Seth would write more poetry. He is the last of the true poets who have as much respect (and talent) for form as for content. To be able to work within the unforgiving rules of meter, cadence and rhyme and still produce not only The Golden Gate, but also translations of old Chinese poetry, that is sheer genius.

(Sorry about the post-length comment...maybe I should turn it into an entry myself!)

Krishnan said...

Remember reading it long back and it seems it was patterned on Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. Brilliant piece of writing. Wish Vikram Seth returns to this genre yet again rather than big tomes albeit very readable ones.

Chenthil said...

Varali - true, it seems so easy when you read him. I haven't read his other poetry. Read his A suitable boy - found it too tedious.

Krishnan - I haven't read Pushkin's book. Thanks for the tip. I heard that Seth's Two Lives is a good read.

varali said...

If you can lay your hands on his other poetry (Humble Adminstrator's Garden, All You Who Sleep Tonight, Three Chinese Poets) grab them and take them home.

Like it says on the cover of A Suitable Boy, they will keep you company for life. :-)

Anonymous said...

I read it in a plane ride, and it was good plane reading -- entertaining without requiring too much concentration. His other poetry is bland, and I don't see why he is the "last of the true poets" -- I'd rather read Tony Harrison.

Anonymous said...

Can't leave "tedious" remain without a comment, that I found it (A Suitable Boy) not tedious at all, an engrossing and wonderful immersion in another world, on the level of Middlemarch. (reading with much appreciation "The golden gate" now)/S.Quinn

Anonymous said...

golden gate is all of poetry and all of modernism and all that is desired for in a novel. for those poetry lovers left in this world it is something to cherish and i have been looking for another golden gate admirer for ages and am glad i have found someone.
i bought the book soem five years back and i still read it with joy.

and yes all vikram seth's other poetry is absolutely fantastic.

beastly tales is an absolute must read.