Virtue IN Danger – by Reggie Oliver

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A Zagava & Ex Occidente Press Edition MMXIII

All my Ex Occidente Press real-time reviews: HERE

Having now read the first chapter and seen the mountainous wordage of this amazingly exquisite physical book (needs to be fondled to be believed), I am determined to take this real-time review very slowly, savouring the experience, but also determined not to allow this experience to be too hedonistic so as to match its contents of moral fortitude (or so I gather from having read the first chapter – unless of course it is a satire and I am meant to pooh pooh it instead. We shall see. I shall leave reading the book’s introduction until I’ve read and reviewed the whole novel as I do with all my real-time reviews).

My review is taking place in the comment stream below on this new-fangled internet.

Perhaps I shall find out why ‘in’ is in italics in the title:

‘Virtue in Danger’  or ‘The Princess and the Actor’ – A Metaphysical Romance by Reggie Oliver

8 thoughts on “Virtue IN Danger – by Reggie Oliver

  1. No spoilers intended. And so to the first chapter….

    Dr. Hubbard and God
    The immaculate prose tells of the Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM) group of members that circulate around (along with concomitant actors and message-purpose theatricals) a distant or close past within a large plush building with inferred balconies (like the sanatorium in Mann’s Magic Mountain?) overlooking Lake Geneva. The already well-characterised members are politicking on who should lead them when the current leader – very ill but hanging on in his wheelchair on the terrace – finally dies.
    MRM reminds me of Mary Whitehouse’s erstwhile ‘National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association’ in the UK, very active a decade or so ago. I once was acquainted with Bob Standring in the 1970s and early 1980s whom I believe to have been one of her right hand men…

  2. Humbug!
    “Man, that guy Bayard is such a phoney, he’d make Tartuffe look like Alceste.”
    I can’t stop laughing inside, as we meet Ivor Smith the actor who has been hired to appear in the propagandic theatre performances, drama that is morally black and white as well as black and white in another sense as betokened by an actor called Moses Robinson. This is Mann’s sanatorium taken to the power of something else, where we meet the concept of sexual congress with the Elgin Marbles as well as real sex on a sunbed in close vicinity to the moral brigade sipping their tea!
    Bayard the MRM theatrical impresario, humbugged by Smith, needs to seek spiritual communion with the Leader, who is still in charge from his wheelchair….
    I hope not to need to retell the plot in my review, but constructively adumbrate the book’s leitmotifs toward the gestalt of, for me, so far, this VERY promising reading experience.

  3. I have now read from page 47 to page 141 (about halfway through the book):
    The chapter headings in this section: THE HIMMLER INCIDENT — ALAS! THE LOVE OF WOMEN — VERY STRIKING, VERY MODERN — THE STATEMANSHIP OF THE HUMBLE HEART — WHY HAS GOD DONE THIS? — THEY’RE GOING TO DO IT!

    This is a wonderful book, with contra-flows of influence from, say, Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (the book’s frontispiece could well be illustrating this with snowy mountains in the distance!), John Cowper Powys’ THE INMATES, machinations and mentalities fermented and fomented from Richmal Crompton’s WILLIAM books or Evadne Price’s JANE books, sown with Fu Manchu or Evelyn Waugh farcical-serious touchings upon Nazism, macro and micro world-politics, romantic rivalries, race, sexuality. It’s a big joke disguised as didacticism, or vice versa, or neither. I haven’t decided which yet, but it’s all viewed from a pungently engaging Thespian point of view as filtered through a maze of other points of view, their moral certainties and uncertainties… Even the dichotomy of twins. And the reader’s sympathies and empathies with various characters fluctuate upon the tides of entrancing prose and dialogue.
    Sometimes, however, you need a long spoon to sup with this book.
    Meanwhile, the advertising brochures and photos at the end of this section of my reading of the book certainly intrigue and fascinate me!

    Some telling quotes:

    “A dictator who has been dictated to by God could be the moral leader of the world.”

    “…but she’s a fridge-pants.” (Cf the advertising brochures mentioned above!)

    “How are you, darling? Missing you lots. Listen, I’m having a bit of a — you know — with Mimsie. You know Mimsie Borogrove.” (I’m not sure whether that shouldn’t be ‘Borogove’?)

    “The sun was now fully risen; the glory of it was inside him,…” (This is just one example of this book’s Powysian tendencies. I suspect the book of proto-Proustianisms, too.)

    “When the lights finally went down and the play began it seemed to Bayard that every ticking second was a minute, every pause was a yawning gap, every speech of more than two sentences was an interminable diatribe.”

    “You should have seen me before the curtain went up, AB. I was a nervous wreck. Wasn’t I, Sylvia? A good old blue funk. Stepping out onto the Centre Court at Wimbledon was nothing to this.”

    “It was never possible to tell with Stolz whether irony was intended or not.” (Never possible to tell with this book, too, be it from sub-let Ivor Smith’s point of view, or Bayard’s, or the head-lease author’s, or other characters’, or even one’s own fluctuating point of view regarding one’s own self as reader.)

    Can you tell I am enjoying this book?

  4. Grim Postures
    There is not only an actual play within this novel, but really it is a play within the novel itself as a play, with all the God’s architecture of timing and props and characterisations-by-speech-and-action that perfects this serio-farcical theatricality of Death and Legacy and its concomitant Rivalries of a Moral or Medical or Old School or Romantic or Royal nature — and in this chapter we not only have the excellent ‘Grim Postures’ joke as double-headed beast or psalm but also a crucial decision being made regarding MRM’s future as a Moral Movement followed by not the page turning itself upon the old words with new words but the sweeps of certainty falling upon uncertainty till I pick up the book again… The book’s front cover as a Purity that keeps Impurity at bay like a static safety curtain.

    (But what about that hole in it?)

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