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Book review: Morality Play, Barry Unsworth

Time to pick up the 101 things again (though I think with about 8 months to go it is a safe bet that they aren't all going to happen. Ah well.). Anyway: one of them is about reading & reviewing books, so I got Morality Play, by Barry Unsworth (recommended by thekumquat), out of the library yesterday, and sat up on the roof this afternoon to read it. (I like it up on the roof - Elizabeth Bay is one of the highest bits of Sydney, so there's a great view, and it's lovely and quiet.)

I found the actual story (a group of mediaeval travelling players who are caught up in the aftermath of a murder, lots of stuff about justice and power and so on; don't want to say more for fear of spoilers) less interesting than the background stuff. Specifically the idea of the move from acting morality plays to using more modern material - the ideas about what 'acting' could and could not convey, and the beginnings of change in that. Also the ideas about one's relationship to meaning, and whether meaning is given to you, or can be self-constructed. Barry Unsworth also makes some fairly unsubtle points about gender relations.

It's fairly short, and it's a decent enough read, I guess, but I wasn't really that impressed. Faintly surprised that it won the Booker (in 1992) - I certainly wouldn't have rated it as prize-winning. I found it a little clunky and shallow. (And homophobic, in a fairly thoughtless "stock Evil Character" way.) Having said that, it wasn't a total waste of 1.5 hrs or anything :-)

ION: I am trying to switch to a Dvorak keyboard, a project which is progressing, but it's bloody frustrating. So I shall stop typing now.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 22nd, 2009 12:11 pm (UTC)
Aww man, I *love* Barry Unsworth and I think 'Morality Play' is excellent (though not as good as 'Sacred Hunger', and I like 'Stone Virgin' at least as much, for its Casanova parody). I thought all the stuff about the concepts of 12th-13th century semiotics, and the cultural mood of the era, were great. I read the "evil" character as being paedophobic rather than homophobic, and also pitiful even if mostly off-stage. If anything, I thought he was a stock "evil upper class" character really.

Oh well, different tastes are important in life, allowing us to experience new things etc etc.

He has a new book out which I really fancy. Still haven't read "Ruby In Her Navel" yet either.
Feb. 27th, 2009 07:48 am (UTC)
I did like the semiotics & cultural stuff - I think it felt a bit like the plot was subservient to that, though, rather than vice versa, which I'm not keen on.

Homophobia: it was more the issue of stereotypes. Characters don't just exist in the context of their own story; there's a cultural surrounding. And an association between homosexuality and paedophilia exists in that cultural surrounding: so picking up that stereotype is reprenhensible behaviour on the part of the author. (TBH I thought it was pretty lazy writing, as well - another indication of him being less interested in the story per se.)
Jan. 15th, 2012 12:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's definitely not the greatest book I've ever read in my life.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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