Page Two of Worth Revisiting; ISLANDIA
By that time, I lived in the country by choice, and was far more attuned to Wright's affection and knowledge of the natural world, and enjoyed that large part of the writing more than the first time. The political challenges addressed with real even-handedness impressed me.
Lang discusses what is expected of him by Washington, and gives equal time and somewhat more sympathetic presentation to what his dearest friend Dorn and the conservative Islandians prefer. I was pleased especially with the Islandian ability to remain friends in the face of disagreements.
The year 2017 is more than a hundred years from the setting, and close to seventy from the publication of this novel. As a widow, the book speaks to me still. The lyrical beauty of prose that belongs more in the 19th than even the 20th centuries is a pleasure too rare. The true depth of characterizations make the characters believable, as do the depictions of profound emotions. Wright's ability to manufacture not just an imagined world in minute detail, but the people who inhabit it as if they were personally known to him and to produce prose poetry with equal facility is astonishing.
The book, though much shortened from the original manuscript (which Wright never intended to publish, but apparently wrote for his own pleasure) is longer than it needs to be. If the story is uppermost for the reader, the political and social philosophy are perhaps overdeveloped. If the utopian ideals are of primary interest, there may be too much self-analysis and ratiocination. Skimming will relieve these difficulties if you wish.
The outstanding characteristic of Islandia is that it will leave no reader unmoved, or even untouched. To make your way through this tour de force of imagination will change you, according to what aspect of it touches you most closely.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Islandia is the number of levels on which it provides emotional impact. Though it may cross the reader's mind that Wright either avoided or forgot to consider such matters as plumbing or the lack thereof, or medicine, which is only glancingly referred to when Lang is hurt in a one-sided gun battle, you accept that.
He admits incursions of European and American "progress" by implication, (the Islandians have firearms, are aware of cable telegraph, for instance) though one of the main thrusts of the narrative is to point out the devastating results of succumbing to modern technology. Perhaps at the time of writing, such cavils would not even have arisen.
Taken in the context of the writer's lifetime measured against ours today, like the best of classic literature, this book succeeds. The rather formal and archaic diction was one of its attractions. People are still reading Henry James, and patiently working through sentences that have so many digressive clauses, it's like reading a whole essay. Wright doesn't require that much dedication. He pulls a willing reader into a world most of us would like at least to see among people anyone would wish to meet. He leaves the reader with implied questions that you instinctively know probably deserve answers that they, sadly, are unlikely ever to have. This is a book that will draw you back again. It guarantees rereading.
Revisiting Favorite Books and Authors:
Pages: 1 · 2
- Rabbits In Waistcoats and Playing Card Gardeners; A World of Logical Nonsense: Alice in Wonderland at the Morgan
- My Post-Bucket List
- Happy Birthday To Min, Who Has Decided She Is 65
- The Stranger in My House
- Harvard School of Public Health Research: Some HDL, or "Good" Cholesterol, May Not Protect Against Heart Disease
- A Philadelphia Family's Titanic History and the Fate of the RMS Titanic Pets
- Things I Wish I Could Say
- On Father's Day, a Celestial Call