Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Byron in Love by Edna O'Brien

Lady Caroline Lamb wrote in her journal that Byron was, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” I tried to use a gentler variation of this line in my younger days when a woman began making matrimonial sounds. However, I had no idea exactly how bad, how mad, and how dangerous Byron was!

The generally reliable O’Brien has spun an absorbing tale of a man who literally had to drive women away from him with insults, protestations that he loved someone else, and transcripts of love letters he received from other women.

O’Brien’s occasionally witty narrative has a lot of interesting information. Unfortunately this “uncorrected proof” has errors typical of galleys, so I plan on getting a copy when Norton publishes it in June. O’Brien’s prose enchants on every page, it flows with the lyricism characteristic of her fiction. Even a reader not a fan of the Romantic poets, who knows little of Byron but cares about poetry, literature, and the psyche of a writer, must place this slim volume high up on a list of books “to be read.”

My biggest criticism concerns the lack of attributions to quoted material. Not even a bibliography appears at the end. Four stars because of this minor lapse.

I think I will read more of her novels and her biography of James Joyce.

--Chiron, 3/10/09

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