Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is digressive and meandering - you never know what's going to happen next - but this is not to say that it is shapeless. It may sprawl - it is sprawling - but remember, for a start, how what is offered as an account of a single journey has in fact been stitched seamlessly together from three separate trips. Over time we have grown familiar with the complex organisation of works such as Bleak House or Ulysses; in contemporary fiction we admire the intricate interweaving of plot, character and themes in the novels of Ian McEwan. Making different demands on the reader's expectations of order, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon has the unity and fluidity of a sustained improvisation in prose. As with a saxophonist or trumpeter, the controlling factor, the thing that allows West to range so widely without ever losing her way, is tone. The book's bold demonstration of the way that tone can take over some of the load-bearing work of structure is crucial to its innovatory importance. Within an overall constancy of tone West moves easily between registers."

The Guardian provides an edited version of Geoff Dyer's introduction to the new edition of Rebecca West's magnum opus.

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