§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: Babel Tower by A. S. Byatt

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Babel Tower by A. S. Byatt

This one is the third of Byatt's Quartet. Frederica leaves her husband after he goes after her with an axe (which the divorce court doesn't believe because he's rich and charming and has good lawyers while she's that unnatural thing, a mother who wants to work, to learn , to live in a working class neighborhood, to send her son to a public--in the American sense--school and whose friends are all men). She reviews books for a publisher and in that capacity comes across an anti-utopian novel, Babbletower about a society that attempts absolute freedom--especially sexual freedom--and ends up ugly and violent--a short of Lord of the Flies for grownups, by a smell and unkempt man in a blue velvet coat. She recommends its publication. The author and publisher are sued for obscenity and that trial and Frederica's divorce "trial" allow Byatt lots of opportunity to characterize the "establishment" that even serious scholars, writers and artists who were not even remotely hippies were contending with. In that sense it's a great picture of the 60ies as experienced by an academically inclined woman. Frederica becomes a TV interviewer which allows Byatt to explore the new media and it's effect on public opinion as well as on art and scholarship. The characters from the first two novels continue: Daniel left his children with their grandparents because he couldn't function in his grief over Stephanie; he works in an old church as someone who answers a help line for emotionally distressed people, including Jude who wrote Babbletower. Bill (Frederica's father) has mellowed after his elder daughter's death, and becomes a model father for the children. Several of Frederica's friends from Cambridge make their way in London at the same time.

I liked this one but maybe not as much as the others in the Quarter.


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