BOOKS: A fine excess with a worthless troll
REMBRANDT WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU by Ruth Padel, Chatto pounds 7.99
Sunday 24 May 1998
Rembrandt ... follows the course of a love affair in which desire and sense are at odds. Its beginning is expressed with a kind of astonished glee, not untainted by nervousness. "This isn't happening," she bluffs, wanting to "play it down", pleading with someone to "put it out with the cat ... / Book it a package deal." But it does happen, of course, and in a big way.
She is grappling here with the eternal conundrum that you can't choose who you love. Always in the wings are the man's children and presumably a wife as well. At times, her passion seems dangerously intense, self- denying, and uncomfortably adulatory: he is "the one thing / That'll hold me". With him she is, as she unforgettably puts it, "a flying bit of vertical velcro". But this isn't a book about comfort, it's an annal of the dangers and risks of falling in love.
Sadly, whether fact, fiction or fantasy, the man is clearly a worthless troll. "Party-Time" is a masterpiece, achieving a precarious balancing- act between the textuality of the poem and her uncontainable grief. They are at a party, "every cell ... / In my body aches / To touch you", and in between stanzas that are obliterated by her falling tears - "[Something dropped out here, the paper / Feels brittle, / Stained with a splash]" - she asks, "why do you drape round / Every woman in the room?" The worst of it is, she knows that "I've given my heart / To something I need protection from ... / A hobnailed boot."
There are moments of unity between them. Although we are never given a picture of the man more complete than peeked-at snatches ("your shoulders and spine", "this blue-white moss you call your hair"), it is the physical side of the relationship that inspires her to smelt words and allusions into images of a peculiar, powerful beauty: "Here you are ... / Holding me up on your thighs, with that lava-flow / We know as city moonlight / Pasting neon, nitrogen, / And old stars / Round the room."
There is an addictive elasticity between her sheer linguistic genius and the traumatic subject matter. It makes for very good poetry. I just hope for her sake that it means she's got it out of her system, and sent the troll packing.
Mountain goats miraculously survive avalanche in the Alps
Skyfall's Ben Whishaw confirmed for Freddie Mercury film
Arts & Ents blogs
The 50 Best Christmas songs: Bells continue to ring for the Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York'
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2013: New pictures released
Back from the dead? Family Guy's Brian Griffin 'to make a comeback' after fan petition
Emma Stone: 'Dating Andrew Garfield makes living in LA a lot less fun'
Katie Hopkins mocks name of sick girl Kaychanel featured in X Factor charity appeal
- 1 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 2 Gurdwaras-turned-food banks: Sikh temples are catering for rise in Britain’s hungry
- 3 Teenage girl convicted of robbery after taking pre-crime selfie wielding knife
- 4 Government delays EU immigration report because it is too positive
- 5 'I'm experiencing austerity as well', says Princess Michael of Kent
- < Previous
- Next >