« DANTE | Main | two gemini painters: Fairfield Porter and Velasquez »

Arnold Bennett, a gemini novelist

In the course of a busy life a certain type of respite is obtained by the reading of a Victorian novel and in no other way. Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale might loosely be called the last big Victorian novel, and it gains in relevance at the moment because 2008 is the centenary of its publication and instant success.  And Bennett was a Gemini, good grist for my image mill.  I knew little about Bennett except that he was an editor and journalist in addition to being a novelist, and that his novels were disdained by Bloomsbury as old-fashioned. I have on the shelves a collection of his journalism with the Geminian title “Things That Have Interested Me.” (inter essei, latin, to be between).

So, an avalanche of other duties procrastinated, I lay down with, and stayed up with, The Old Wives’ Tale for a few days, and have this to report of this native of the sign of The Twins’ most important work. The subject, characteristically, isimg.888015.jpg siblinghood: the life history of two sisters. A brief, keenly imagined narrative of a pre-adolescent character’s petty theft carries a heavy symbolic and anticipatory freight, as in so many novels by Geminis (Frances Burney, Th. Hardy, Th. Mann, Joyce Carol Oates, Patrick White, Mary McCarthy, Jackie Collins and Harold Robbins come to mind).

A lovely passage of marriage bed soliloquy, Bennett’s Mollie Bloom piece, ends like this: “As she lay darkly awake by her husband, her secret being seemed to be a-quiver with emotion. Not exactly sorrow; not exactly joy; an emotion more elemental than these . . .  The two had to be reconciled. And they never could be reconciled. Always she would be between them, to reconcile them, and to be crushed by their impact. . . she was conscious of no bitterness, conscious rather of a solemn blessedness.”

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.