Monday, October 24, 2011

Illustrious House of Ramires

I have been planning to read Illustrious House of Ramires by Eça de Queirós as part of the Wuthering Expectations Portuguese novel reading fest. A coworker claimed to have a copy, and further claimed that I'd be able to borrow it. After weeks of gentle reminders I learned that my coworker can't put his hands on the volume. Meanwhile, October wanes alarmingly. So it was with some relief that I picked up a new copy of the novel this afternoon at the University Bookstore, whose staff were happy (oh, so happy) to special order it on my behalf.

I'm only a few hours away from finishing up my current read, Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda (a sort of exploration of Pascal's Wager, among other things), which means that I might start Illustrious House tomorrow, and actually manage to read a Portuguese novel during October. There are no penalties for failing this challenge, but the book looks amusing and well-written and I never participate in these online reading things so I'd like to have managed this one.

Oscar and Lucinda is quite fab, too, so I'm glad I had time to squeeze that in. Should I say something about that book? It won the Booker in 1988 (when the Booker still meant something) and it's much better than the film (what isn't?). It's a tragedy, and I'm in that part of the tragedy where you can see the machinery of fate grinding the characters between gear teeth and perhaps Mr Carey is going a little bit over the top with tragic imagery. Perhaps also his very large Dickensian cast could be a bit better managed (a few of the characters are too similar to each other, and one character in particular does not seem at all, at his reappearance in the story, like the man we are first introduced to) and the later parts of the second act have not had a proper edit (some alarming repetition where it looks like Carey couldn't decide where to place a couple of bits of exposition so he put it in two chapters in a row and neglected to cut one of the instances). But every good, adventurous novel has its flaws. A flawless narrative is not a brave narrative, and Oscar and Lucinda is a brave narrative.

Speaking of narratives, I report that I haven't yet sent the latest MS to my agent. I decided to rewrite Chapter 10, thanks to an offhand comment Mighty Reader made about Bizet's Carmen that had nothing to do with my book but still managed to illuminate the problem with Chapter 10 that's gnawed at me (but not clearly identified itself) since I wrote the damned thing. Hopefully I'll finish the revision tonight, type up all my changes tomorrow night and send the book off to my agent, who promises to read it right away.


  1. The way I am going to get Ramires read in October is no way at all, but I will catch up. Soon, let's say.

  2. You have plenty of good books going right now. I'm just hoping that Illustrious House of Ramires is so enchanting that I seek out the rest of EdQ's novels; it's been some time since I discovered a new author with a hefty back catalogue. Though in 2012, I have decided, I'm going to read nothing but Chekhov and Nabokov. We'll see if I survive that. I plan to break things up by reading letters and lectures, not just novels.

  3. Nothing but Chekhov and Nabokov! What a year. The VN I am reading now, Glory, is among his most minor novels, or so I thought, or so I tell myself, but I cannot believe some of the things I am coming across.

    I doubt I will write anything about it though - I am giving moral support to bibliographing, as well as revisiting these amazing works.

    Did you know, when you picked it, that Ramires is about a writer? I don't think I knew that. The first chapter is something other than Cousin Basilio and The Maias, something most interesting.

  4. The only thing I knew about Ramires when I picked it is that it's shorter than any of the other EdQ novels you had listed, and I hesitated to make a large investment in time.

    The first chapter is quite fine, so far. The pocket history of the male line made me laugh out loud. I'm reminded of too many other authors/books to list. I also know I'm missing a lot of cultural references, but I don't worry about that.