Paperback review: Mating, By Norman Rush
Sunday 20 October 2013
This novel first appeared in 1991, but still seems extraordinary, innovative, sui generis. An unnamed female anthropologist is doing fieldwork for her thesis in Botswana; she conceives an intense interest in the charismatic Nelson Denoon, writer, intellectual, social theorist, who has started up a utopian community, run by women, in the heart of the Kalahari desert.
So she makes a solo trek through the desert to find him, and there ensues a passionate love affair, both physical and intellectual: these two are as hungry for each other’s brains as each other’s bodies. The unashamed intellectualism is one of the things that makes this book so unusual: when we first meet Denoon he’s lecturing about the faults of capitalism and why socialism is no remedy; a typical dinner conversation is about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s a novel of real, original ideas about feminism, love, politics, race and anthropology. Then there is the style. Rush throws to the wind that old creative maxim, “Show Don’t Tell”. His narrator explains everything: events, her view of events, her analysis of her view of events. Much of the dialogue occurs as reported speech, interspersed with her interpretations of what was said and what the underlying motives must have been. It’s peppered with snatches of French, Latin, and Setswana (unitalicised) and the vocabulary is both flamboyant and precise. A high proportion of sentences are stand-alone epigrams: “The celerity with which people recognize something is spilt milk is a main measure of their rationality.” Chapters have intriguing titles such as “This Is How depraved You Can Become”. I hope I’m not making the whole thing sound like a mere display of braininess. This is a story with blood in its veins. And the narrator is the best female character created by a male author I have ever come across.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' goes viral 35 years later
Martin Scorsese 'in shock and sorrow' after death on set of new film Silence
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia