THE REHEARSAL – Eleanor Catton

imageFirst Published 2008

Granta Books

“I would make up silver lies studded with shards of perfect detail like mosaic splinters, sharp and everlasting, the kind of tiny faultless detail that would make them all sure that what I said was true. I would have alibis. I would bring in other people and teach them a story, and rehearse it so carefully and for so long that soon they’d all start to believe that what they said was actually true.”

I read this novel in the inevitable light of my earlier reading of the author’s own subsequent novel entitled THE LUMINARIES (that I reviewed briefly HERE).
The above quote from one of the characters in THE REHEARSAL (a dress rehearsal for THE LUMINARIES or the real thing by the astrological retrocausality of THE LUMINARIES?) seems to encapsulate THE REHEARSAL’s own effects on the reader, with its texturedly clear-sighted scintillants of prose and dialogue, not so much stilted as staged. It seems also to reflect what I have long called on record ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ – at the cusp of artifice and reality, at the cusp of one astrological harmonic and another (represented by the seemingly random months and days as headings in the text), at the cusp of willingness to have sex and the actual legal ability to give oneself in sex (with implications for rape and child abuse), at the cusp of insurable interest in the law of life assurance and human care itself, at the cusp of being a human being and of not being a human being but being a cipher or playing-card (two of the characters, for example, are continuously called the Saxophone Teacher or the Head of Movement, rather than their names), at the cusp of acting a role and of being that role (in the philosophy of theatre), at the cusp of identity and nemonymity…. And, on this level, it is a highly inspiring and literally moving novel, that, probably for the first time in literature, successfully bridges the middle ground of depersonalisation and intense humanity. I sense I failed at this bridging in my own ‘Nemonymous Night’…

This novel, overall, is a compelling tale of young folk learning music, thinking about, if not doing, sex, and learning acting, and older folk learning re-acting like, for example, one character trying to out-do his son with the dirtiest jokes possible — as well as all those other more rarified things about which I try to give an appreciation above.

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