Ian "Marvin" Graye's Reviews > Impossible Object

Impossible Object by Nicholas Mosley
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
5022264
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: mosley, read-2014, reviews, reviews-4-stars

The Object is to Get the Best of Both Worlds

I wanted to write you something impossible.

It occurs to me there are many alternative strategies you can employ to read this novel (which was first published in 1968, not that there's any inkling of the Summer of Love). So let’s start.

Imagine a spider web. There are several ways you can approach a spider web. You can encounter it unseen, unexpectedly, and recoil. You can detect it shining radiantly in the spring morning sun and admire it. You can return later, having forgotten it, and become entangled. “Impossible Object” is an exquisitely spun metafiction, not unlike a spider web. Having finished it, having the latter parts inform the earlier parts retroactively, you want to return to the beginning and start again. You want to get entangled. Let’s start again.

The novel is a post-modern sequel to Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” in which a latterday Ramsay family embarks on a boat ride, without procrastination, but with tragic consequences. Let’s start again.

The novel is an impossible object written for a loved one and for us: “I wanted to write you something impossible, like a staircase climbing a spiral to come out where it started or a cube with a vertical line at the back overlapping a horizontal one in front. These cannot exist in three dimensions but can be drawn in two;by cutting out one dimension a fourth is created. The object is that life is impossible; one cuts out fabrication and creates reality. A mirror is held to the back of the head and one's hand has to move the opposite way from what was intended.” Let’s start again.

There are eight stories. With no effort at the truth, I’m going to give four of the characters names (for they are not all named). Nick is an unmarried writer. Harry is married to Elizabeth, but is having an adulterous affair with Natalie. Much of their affair occurs in a pub near the British Museum, which is frequented by Nick, while he is researching a biography on Nietzsche. Harry might be a conductor, a writer or the owner of a pirate radio station. Natalie might be a flautist or a poet.

Nick ends up writing voyeuristic stories about Harry and Natalie. Harry ends up writing a story about Nick. Natalie writes a story about Harry. However, there is a sneeking suspicion that Nick is Harry (“You can’t exist! Or you’re myself. You see how this is impossible!”), and that the stories about Harry and Natalie are narrated by Nick, so that Harry can write about himself in the third person. Or are they written by Nick, so that he can write about himself in the third person? Or did one person write all of the stories? And was that person, let's face it, Nicholas Mosley? Let’s start again.

This is the story of a love affair, not to be confused with the 1950 film by Michaelangelo Antonioni. Let’s start again. This is the story of a love story, not to be confused with a 1973 film by John Frankenheimer called “Story of a Love Story”, or is it? It is after all based on the novel and a script by Nicholas Mosley. Let’s start again.

You can read all of this and conclude, “That’s impossible”. The temptation is to cut out the fabrication and be left with the reality. In Frankenheimer’s script conferences, people said, “But look here, Nicholas, when all is said and done, what we have here is just a good straightforward love story!” The temptation is to say, “Love should be simple; truth should be all-of-a-piece. But if in fact they are not – then it is the temptation that causes delusion. Look around you: are not humans either tip-toeing along, or flat on the ground underneath, a tightrope?” Let’s start again.

Mosley wrote the novel when he was 44. Nick travels to Turin to research the city where Nietzsche went mad. He (Nietzsche) was 44 at the time. Nick also has an affair with an Alberto Moravia-styled Italian woman named Hippolyta, who seems to be as voluptuous as Nietzsche’s muse, Lou Andreas-Salomé.

Harry, on the other hand, is obsessed by a young woman with black hair who is at the same time mythical like Cleopatra. She too “had the sensuality of opposites – the youth and experience, the leanness and voluptuousness, which invited both protection and sadism.” Let’s start again.

There is no life without opposites. Love is cursed by opposites: “There is perhaps no love without power…You cannot force them, you can only let them grow… But love is total… It runs you...You can’t expect miracles. You trust.”

Love makes us desire the impossible. Harry wanted to “maintain the ecstasy.” Yet, Natalie, being practical, wanted “a life that was whole, that would have a future and not be impossible.”

Between them, Mosley is trying to convince us that all life is impossible; it’s shaped by fabrications; but we have to excise or exorcise them, in our thought processes and behaviour, in the way we approach them, in the hope that what emerges is reality. Somehow, “the object is to get the best of both worlds.”

Still, there isn't necessarily a happy ending. In fact, there's a soul-destroying ending that is so prolonged and powerful in its impact that it makes you forget this is a Post-modern Fiction. This is how it would be if the novel had a happy ending: Two dancers would come in front of the curtain and hold hands.

(view spoiler)

(view spoiler)


description

Impossible Cube


description

"Cube with Magic Ribbons" (1957) by M. C. Escher


SOUNDTRACK:

J.S. Bach - "Flute Concerto in g-minor"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoU90_...

Master Musicians of Joujouka

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGMbZN...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20x1OZ...

Rolling Stones - "Continental Drift"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3slxN...

Rolling Stones - "Can You Hear The Music?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ABO4I...

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”: Friedrich Nietzsche

Nicholas Mosley - "Writing Life Pt 4"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60GWbb...
23 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Impossible Object.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

February 14, 2014 – Shelved
February 14, 2014 – Shelved as: mosley
February 14, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
February 22, 2014 – Started Reading
February 23, 2014 –
page 19
8.68% "My first reaction to the writing is the power of observation. Then I notice just how rich it is, without necessarily being purple. Finally, every now and again, but still quite frequently, sentences make you want to stop reading and contemplate, even if they're not meant to meant to convey anything profound. I suspect I'm in the hands of a master."
February 23, 2014 –
page 31
14.16% "Whoa, I didn't see that coming. It was like a slippery slide ride into the cellar of the family home. Just turn off the lights and experience the horrors that await us down there in the darkness. Down there is the junk and detritus of family life. It's not wasted on this story. It's only a game, so play along, if you're game. Or if you want to be game. Or somebody else's game."
February 23, 2014 –
page 54
24.66% "The things intelligent people do to each other when they slip a ring on each other's finger. I want to re-read this chapter/story to re-assess the pacing and how the detail is accumulated. Again, a family is haunted by something from the past. We are left to guess at its nature, although we have a fair idea of what, if not when. We've progressed from something in the cellar to some sort of skeleton in the closet."
February 24, 2014 –
page 81
36.99% "Another glimpse of darkness, if not a glimpse in the darkness. Is marriage a form of trench warfare? "The enemy is the desire to fight in order to be martyred and to get comfort from this." Are marital disputes motivated by self-abuse? Are we closer when we are apart? "There is perhaps no love without power." A third person, a him, though presumably not the one from the second chapter. Same couple as first chapter?"
February 25, 2014 –
page 107
48.86% "Another couple, married but not to each other, perform mythic roles in a public house, sometimes seeming to "hover slightly above their seats like hummingbirds", doing their best to "maintain ecstasy", while the unmarried narrator watches guiltily. "Within love is the curse of opposites.""
February 25, 2014 –
page 131
59.82% "The narrator (who is writing a biography of Nietzsche) lives with Hippolyta for a time in Rome, overlooking the Borghese gardens. In the style of Alberto Moravia. In Pisa he sees a girl with long black hair with whom he had been in love a long time ago."
February 25, 2014 –
page 152
69.41% "This story appears to be told from the perspective of the man in the couple, but is probably the story written by the single writer who narrated the public house chapter."
February 25, 2014 –
page 183
83.56% "The couple, as narrated by the writer in the first person, are found out by the woman's husband."
February 25, 2014 –
page 217
99.09% "This story, "The Sea", is told from the point of view of the woman. It explores many of the themes of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse", except that the boat trip occurs more spontaneously than Woolf's, with unforeseen consequences. I suspect that this story precedes and is about the same characters (Mr and Mrs Mostyn) as the second story "A Morning in the Life of Intelligent People"."
February 25, 2014 – Shelved as: read-2014
February 25, 2014 – Shelved as: reviews
February 25, 2014 – Shelved as: reviews-4-stars
February 25, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

knig I'm finished. Very quick read in some respects. Let me know when you are done.


message 2: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I'll try to get a move on tonight. I was trying to juggle two books.


message 3: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I've finished. Now I just have to mull over it.


message 4: by Ted (new)

Ted I hope that isn't martin mulling you have to do.

By the way, quite an interesting review, Ian. I suspect this time of novel is beyond my grasping, but the review isn't. Well done! 8)


message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Ted wrote: "I hope that isn't martin mulling you have to do.

By the way, quite an interesting review, Ian. I suspect this time of novel is beyond my grasping, but the review isn't. Well done! 8)"


Thanks, Ted. Unfortunately, it wasn't martini mulling either.


message 6: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Frances wrote: "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music

Beautiful + impossible ÷ love = dreams

Your review is quite dreamy, darling."


Very impressive! Thanks. Can you hear the music?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WFQxK...


message 7: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala Some interesting writing of your own here, Ian.
But I liked the quotes from Mosley too.
This was one I liked:
A mirror is held to the back of the head and one's hand has to move the opposite way from what was intended
That's doing the almost impossible, to my mind, with the world's most impossible object, to my mind, under nearly impossible conditions - it's enough to blow my mind...


knig joujouka: great. Also, gnawa!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj9HxX...

Mosley seems to be playing with fire re favourable ref to Nietzche, given his father was a reviled and discredited fascist (the infamous Oswald Mosley). Apropos of which, and re hyppolita, unforgivable editorial miscalculation: yes she is first described as voluptuous, but on pg 111 when she opens the door 'she was this tall thin girl'...(quoting verbatim) which is confusing. Or, is she voluptuous but the narrator is projecting? As this novel is very much a house of mirrors.

One more thing: when the narrator says 'the object is to get the best of both worlds', I hate to crash this party onto pedestrian ground, but what he is alluding to is: keep your wife AND your mistress. I don't say this cencosorially, but factually.


message 9: by Ian (last edited Feb 25, 2014 10:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Fionnuala wrote: "That's doing the almost impossible, to my mind, with the world's most impossible object, to my mind, under nearly impossible conditions - it's enough to blow my mind...."

Haha. I was a bit like that trying to take the selfie that I used as a profile photo for a while.


Garima Exquisite review, Ian.

Between them, Mosley is trying to convince us that all life is impossible; it’s shaped by fabrications; but we have to excise or exorcise them, in our thought processes and behaviour, in the way we approach them, in the hope that what emerges is reality.

I longed for that reality with happy ending but all I got was reality. Is there an indication of Karma in all this? Of course I have to reread the book.


Agnieszka Nothing is impossible to you ,Ian!An excellent review.


message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye knig wrote: "One more thing: when the narrator says 'the object is to get the best of both worlds', I hate to crash this party onto pedestrian ground, but what he is alluding to is: keep your wife AND your mistress. I don't say this cencosorially, but factually."

Thanks, knig. I'll try to respond to your two points in reverse order in two separate posts. I've also read your more extensive post in the thread for Dolors' review.

I separated the quote from its context and used it to describe a view I had come to: that we need both our fabrications and our reality, we need and have to accept the co-existence of the opposites.

I don't want to justify or excuse anybody's sexual conduct. But I would like to put it in some sort of context.

Literally, you are 100% right about the character's (Harry/Nick's) desire to have his cake and eat it, too. However, the quote comes in a passage in the interstitials where the narrator has returned from war believing he might have syphilis, only to discover that his wife suspects that she too might have contracted syphilis while he was away. Fortunately, both discover that they haven't got it. She doesn't believe that she might have got it in the "usual" way, whatever that means. Her doctor responds that there is only one way to get it.

Harry/Nick says that he still would have felt "guilty", even if she had not feared syphilis. However, that comment took into account his history and plans to resume extra-marital sex. He was going to indulge, but with guilt.

Most of the interstitials are extracts from Mosley's private journals, particularly the material with respect to his relationship with a real life "Natalie". Mosley was discreet in his memoirs about his wife Rosemary's relationships, because he was confident she would want to write her own version of her life, even though she died soon after he finished the first draft.

Their marriage started off on the basis that they would be sexually faithful to each other, unlike their parents whose convention was that sexual affairs were "within socially acceptable limits: these limits were that such affairs should be carried on only between people who would not be socially hurt - that is, between men and other men's wives of the same social standing, but not with unmarried women".

A lot of their infelicities were documented as express subject matter in his novels. They were also known to the other spouse, and hurtful, but tolerated, even if reluctantly.


message 13: by Ian (last edited Feb 26, 2014 12:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye knig wrote: "on pg 111 when she opens the door 'she was this tall thin girl'...(quoting verbatim) which is confusing. Or, is she voluptuous but the narrator is projecting?"

I'm not sure whether this is just a male's way of describing his ideal woman: both slender and buxom? ;)

knig wrote: "Mosley seems to be playing with fire re favourable ref to Nietzche, given his father was a reviled and discredited fascist (the infamous Oswald Mosley)."

I'm not sure how to respond. Nicholas wrote two books of biography/autobiography about his father. In the earlier parts of the YouTube video that I linked to in my review, he spoke very kindly about the man as a person independently of his politics. However, as Ben Jonson wrote: “Greatness of name in the father oft-times helps not forth, but overwhelms the son; they stand too near one another. The shadow kills the growth.”

It's probably worse when the shadow is cast by a Fascist oak, and you don't agree with his politics.

It's a long time since I read any Nietzsche, but he's on the agenda. The rehabilitation of his reputation past-WW2 owes a lot to Walter Kaufmann's work. I don't know enough about the implications of Mosley alluding to his philosophy in this context.

I've just had a look at the interview on the Dalkey site and he says this about Nietzsche:

"I have always been influenced I think by Jung, and by Nietzsche—the latter being someone (as I said in “Impossible Object”) who I think has been almost universally misunderstood; since people have taken him to have been talking about politics and society while to me he seems to have been talking about the mind—the problems of coming to terms with the peculiar nature of mind."

http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/a-conver...


message 14: by Ian (last edited Feb 26, 2014 01:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Garima wrote: "Exquisite review, Ian...I longed for that reality with happy ending but all I got was reality. Is there an indication of Karma in all this? Of course I have to reread the book."

Thanks, Garima. Re Karma, I would love to hear your thoughts on Karma as well as the implications of Eternal Recurrence. I haven't read enough about ER to think it through. In the interstitial that I discussed in the thread above, there is a mention of grace being established when the narrator returned from war. Grace gets mentioned a few times in the novel. There is both love and suffering, hurt and guilt.

E.T.A. I'm not sure whether you're referring to some aspect of Karma being a punishment for their conduct?


message 15: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Agnieszka wrote: "Nothing is impossible to you ,Ian!An excellent review."

Thank, Agnieszka. Do you think it will be possible to see your review? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


message 16: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye knig wrote: "joujouka: great. Also, gnawa!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj9HxX...
"


Especially loved the "bass". Is it a guembri?


Garima Ian wrote: "I'm not sure whether you're referring to some aspect of Karma being a punishment for their conduct? "

That's what I meant. It was a cursory thought came to my mind while writing my comment. I have to think more about it. This novel is huge in scope and much of it is beyond my grasp.


message 18: by Ian (last edited Feb 26, 2014 02:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Garima wrote: "Ian wrote: "I'm not sure whether you're referring to some aspect of Karma being a punishment for their conduct? "

That's what I meant."


To the extent that the novel is based on actual people and events relating to the author, I doubt whether he was seeking to punish himself in print. Plus you'd hope there'd be far more direct ways to do it than (view spoiler)


Garima Ian wrote: "Garima wrote: "Ian wrote: "I'm not sure whether you're referring to some aspect of Karma being a punishment for their conduct? "

That's what I meant."

To the extent that the novel is based on act..."


I didn't know about that. I guess, reading this book in complete ignorance is another way of approaching it ;)


message 20: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Mosley's social activities didn't seem to be that much different from Graham Greene's, except maybe not as much Catholic guilt. I think he was more Anglican.


Agnieszka Ian wrote: "Agnieszka wrote: "Nothing is impossible to you ,Ian!An excellent review."

Thank, Agnieszka. Do you think it will be possible to see your review? I'd love to hear your thoughts."


Ha, I'd love to know my thoughts either ;)Kidding , yes I'm going to review it.


message 22: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Great!


message 23: by Mala (last edited Feb 26, 2014 05:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala @ Ian:I was looking for some lucidity here,something that would tie things up neatly but I guess that was asking for an impossible object!
I feel tangled up in Mosley's narrative web more than ever!
To me the following things were clear:
A.The personality of the author: the same guy in the opening story,who has an affair with the rich guy's wife ( the couple in the Intelligent People story), who then revisits their clandestine meetings & subsequent break up in the pub in a third person narrative so your Harry & Nick are one & the same.
B. The writer's wife is molested by a native in that African holiday. She might/might not have contracted syphilis in his absence during the war. She is not shown actively indulging in adulterous behaviour unlike the other three characters.
C. Your Natalie,the rich man's wife & the writer's lover who has black hair ( I've forgotten her description) & whom the writer conjures up as a teen in the first story- it's clear he is writing all these stories to make sense of the tragedy that occured between them ( the child conceived during her visit to his flat when she was fleeing from her husband.)
D. Natalie's husband whom Hippolyta calls up on phone & who receives mails from her. He is also having an affair of his own.

I hadn't looked into the personal angle of Mosley's life vis-a-vis this book.
And I agree with Knig's comments on your thread.
Btw,where's the missing 5th star? What element caused you to nick that?
Jim of Brain Pain had found some interesting parallels with Ulysses,just as you've brought the To the Lighthouse insight!
A book that inspires this level of head scratching,is bound to be great.
A very interesting review!


message 24: by Ian (last edited Feb 26, 2014 11:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye SPOILER WARNING

Thanks, Mala. From the beginning to the end, I felt I was going to rate this novel five stars (for what it is worth). I always write my review, then make a decision on the rating as the very last act. Something was still niggling me at the time of my decision.

A book like this confronts a reader with their own desire for certainty, the desire to "work it out" or solve the crime. In some books, like Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49", you end up deciding that the point of the book is to ask the questions, not necessarily to find the answers. Thus, they say something about life and the need to accept that we will never know everything we want to know or think we ought to know.

When I started writing my review and started to use it as the framework for solving the "crime", I got to the point where I felt it was a jigsaw puzzle and, at the very end, there was a piece missing or, for a blue puzzle, there was a brown piece from another puzzle that didn't belong there.

The flipside of this is that I always feel hamstrung when the discussion of a theme that interests me requires detailed discussion of the plot or even a spoiler. I'd much rather avoid spoilers altogether, and I usually only use them for some meta- purpose, as here. I knew I wasn't going to write a review that definitively answered the type of factual questions you have addressed, and to be honest, that frustrated me, given the writing deadline I had given myself.

I also felt frustrated by possible inconsistencies, even if they were deliberate. Things like Hippolyta's letter to "Mr Harris" (how was "Mostyn" receiving mail addressed to a different name), the fact that I thought it was Nick who had gone to Italy, although it's equally, if not more, likely that it was Harry, even though I had inferred that it was Nick who was writing the bio of Nietzsche.

These "flaws in the glass" were obviously the cue to pay more attention to who's zooming who. However, I wanted to do so at the level of assuming that they were different characters or guises in the story or stories, but that at a meta level they came together. Nevertheless, the flaws revealed or betrayed the real character of the book. Thus, they were functional, and arguably, because they were deliberate, were not really flaws at all.

I was frustrated that, by the end of the novel, the concept of opposites wasn't particularly rounded off or shined. I was hoping it would be a more definite expression of a philosophical approach to life. I wanted more about the polarity or duality that it evoked. I even wanted to see whether it implied a dialectic, in which both aspects of the polarity might remain.

In the absence of more overt discussion of this issue, I simply threw this issue out there, almost glibly. However, I still escalated one sentence about "both worlds" to both the text and the title of my review.

It might have been a misappropriation of the quote, but it still stands for me as an adequate label for the approach to opposition or duality that I was trying to hint at.

In retrospect, if the quote had said "make" the best of both worlds, then I would have been more comfortable with it.

However, I have to resist the temptation to treat it as no more than a rationalisation of infidelity. For me, the whole book was about the life lessons learned from our desires, including how we indulge those desires. I don't want to be judgmental or censorious about his/their conduct. The whole point is that he/they did it, he/they hurt people, he/they felt guilty, but he/they continued to do it. The duality in life is love and suffering, even if the suffering is a foreseeable consequence of deliberate and selfish acts.

I'm not denying that the philosophical approaches could have been arrived at without the infidelities. However, I don't want to be critical of the work because of the sexual morality of its author or its characters. The same issue arises with respect to Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair". These characters are supposedly intelligent people. We might have privileged access to their carnal appetites. However, I didn't want to be the one to dismantle their approach to life because of their appetites. I didn't want to be the one to say, well, none of this would have happened if you'd been a good boy (or girl). Perhaps the expectation that we will always be good is an impossible object. It's more interesting to me that we are a combination of good and bad, i.e., opposites, and we have to make the best of both worlds. We have to play the cards we've been dealt. We have to roll with the punches, even if we're the one throwing some or all of them, and there is collateral damage from friendly fire.


message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim Great work, Ian. Maybe it's just because I read your review within an hour of waking up this morning, but it sounds like a novel that would make feel tired!


message 26: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Kim wrote: "Great work, Ian. Maybe it's just because I read your review within an hour of waking up this morning, but it sounds like a novel that would make feel tired!"

Haha, thanks, Kim. It's actually quite an easy and fast read. The problem is more what happens when you start thinking about it. As you can probably tell from the thread!


Gregsamsa Alright, alright, alright, I'll READ it. This well-written review was nonetheless utterly baffling to this Impossible Object nonreader, or notyetreader.


message 29: by Ian (last edited Feb 26, 2014 05:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye A story about the author's father, Oswald Mosley.

I can't remember how or why I first became interested in Oswald Mosley. In the late 70's I had read a lot of Isherwood, Auden and Spender, and had some exposure to British politics, especially surrounding the Spanish Civil War. I probably came across Mosley's name around this time. My recollection is that I thought of him not just as dangerous, but as somebody who had made a fool of himself, effectively by picking the wrong side in a conflagration.

In the early 80's, I was involved with an independent radio station called 4ZZZ, and was good friends with the newsroom (many of whom went on to greater things with Triple J).

In 1982, it was known that Charles and Di were about to have their first child, not the first grandchild for the Queen, but one who, if a boy, would be first in line for the throne (Prince William).

As soon as it was known that the child had been born and that it was a boy, I rang up the newsroom and mentioned that I had heard that Charles and Di had called the Prince Oswald Mosley Windsor. They ran with the story for a few hours, before they realised I was pulling their leg.

Some other stuff:

Some time in the mid to late 90's I bought and read one of Nicholas' memoirs ("Efforts at Truth"). I had never read any of his fiction (this was my first), but I wanted to learn what it must be like to be the son of somebody who had had a high, but negative, profile. I am equally interested in the dynamics of the relationship between Kingsley and Martin Amis. How to grow up a tall tree in the shade of another one.

In the case of Nicholas, though, because he was a writer and apparently not particularly political, I was determined not to visit the sins of the father on the son.

Despite and because he wasn't political, Nicholas got a commission from the film director Joseph Losey (who had been trying to get a film of "Impossible Object" off the ground) to do the script of a film about the Assassination of Trotsky in Mexico, which was eventually released in 1972. Nicholas subsequently turned his research into a non-fiction work/novelisation, which I found in a Melbourne second hand book store earlier this month. The film stars Richard Burton as Leon Trotsky, as well as Romy Schneider (one of my favourite actresses) and Alain Delon. According to wiki, subsequently, The Assassination of Trotsky was included as one of the choices in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeKHth...

I'll probably read the book before working up the courage to watch the film.


message 30: by Ian (last edited Feb 26, 2014 05:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye The film of "Impossible Object" came out under the title "Story of a Love Story".

When I was trying to work out how to structure my review, I went through its cast list, and decided to give the characters in the novel names, so that it would be easier to refer to who was doing what. Alan Bates played Harry. Natalie was the character played by Dominique Sanda. I won't say any more about the cast, because it will be apparent that one of the questions about the identity of the characters in the book has to be confronted definitively in the film. Suffice it to say that I made up the name "Nick".

The film was the last art film made by Frankenheimer.


message 31: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Gregsamsa wrote: "Alright, alright, alright, I'll READ it. This well-written review was nonetheless utterly baffling to this Impossible Object nonreader, or notyetreader."

Thanks, GS. I wrote it when I was still utterly baffled, which state continues. As you can see, I haven't stop thinking about it yet.


Gregsamsa Well, its being able to baffle YOUR ass is worth two a priori stars before I even read it. Wait, that was redundant wasn't it. This on toppa Mala's good word. It's a rare book that gets so much love from the better GR heads.


message 33: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I love a book you can play with a bit. I think I went from playing with my food to playing with books. I was lucky to read Tristram Shandy (not to mention Gulliver's Travels) quite early. I loved that squiggly summary of the plot.


message 34: by Mala (last edited Feb 27, 2014 06:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Thank you,Ian,for this detailed & thoughtful response. I'm relieved that you took my comment in the right spirit:

possible inconsistencies, even if they were deliberate. Things like Hippolyta's letter to "Mr Harris" (how was "Mostyn" receiving mail addressed to a different name)...that it was Nick who was writing the bio of Nietzsche

I think it's easy to open a PO Box account under a false name- ppl do it all the time. The purpose was to keep the affair hidden from his wife. It's something similar to what ppl do on the net when they assume false identities.
I felt the philosophical portions were written by a mature version of the writer as they were very reflective but one can't be too sure abt that cause most ppl tend to read Nietzsche in their youth cause youth feels invincible, by middle age nobody feels like a "superman"! & that's a fact of life.

I was frustrated that, by the end of the novel, the concept of opposites wasn't particularly rounded off or shined.

A man's appetite for adventure & a woman's instinct for safety are the two opposites that can't be reconciled here- that symbolic clash takes place on the sea- it recalls the Greek legend of Ulysses- he went on the high seas in search of adventures while Penelope faithfully stayed home- implication is Natalie shd've stayed home with the baby- & the result is tragedy which fiction tries to compensate for just as it happened in Ian McEwan's Atonement

For me, the whole book was about the life lessons learned from our desires, including how we indulge those desires.(...) The duality in life is love and suffering, even if the suffering is a foreseeable consequence of deliberate and selfish acts.

Exactly. Loving someone is opening yourself to hurt,disillusionment- it comes with the territory- the book seems to say that.

However, I don't want to be critical of the work because of the sexual morality of its author or its characters. The same issue arises with respect to Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair".

Both the books are informed by the personal lives of their authors & both are British but the similarity ends there: unlike the adulterous couple in Impossible Object, the lovers in The End of the Affair are equal in their passion for each-other whereas here the writer guy wants to have "the best of both worlds". In the Greene book their love has more legitimacy than the sanctioned bonds of marriage- it's the same way I feel abt the lovers in The English Patient.
Some people just belong together & in fiction that possibility may be safely explored.

The summer of love

I think it was in Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Endingwhere a character said that the Britishers didn't realise when the sixties came & went cause they were not getting any action! Maybe it was different for the Americans.

For such a slim book Impossible Object is dense with meaning.The real adventure here begins after the reading!


message 35: by Ian (last edited Feb 27, 2014 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye SPOILER WARNING

Ultimately, I don't feel that I can embrace an interpretation of the novel as a condemnation of Harry's relationship with Natalie on the sole ground that it was adulterous in its origin or that he was trying to have his cake and eat it too.

Just as the Cleopatra girl in the first story might not actually have been electrocuted, there is a suggestion that the baby did not actually die. I had thought that the baby was a boy. However, I am almost 100% certain that it was a girl. In the last of the chronological stories, the Mostyns (who are Harry and Natalie) have two daughters, the one being the daughter from Natalie's first marriage and the second being the baby that was supposed to have died. The survival of the baby is the happy ending that is talked about at the end. Two dancers did come in front of the curtain and hold hands. And the two dancers were in fact Harry and Natalie, the second, adulterous couple.

Their relationship might have started in adultery, but it was "legitimated" by marriage. Mrs Harris became Mrs Mostyn.

The story "The Sea" (was it written by Natalie or by Harry/Nick projecting onto Natalie?) was about Harry and Natalie, not Harry and his wife, Elizabeth.

Obviously, just as each of the first marriages had problems, so did the second one. I don't think that the second marriage was plagued by fate, simply because it was a second marriage or that it originated in adultery or infidelity to Elizabeth. The problems are another sequence in the eternally recurring nature of character and relationships. To the extent that Harry is flawed, his flaws continue and influence what occurs around him, or he causes it to happen. However, I don't think that the message is we shouldn't go off on our adventures or that we should stay at home.

The woman in The Sea wasn't Elizabeth, the faithful wife or Penelope who stayed at home. It was Natalie, albeit equally affairs were continuing.

In "To the Lighthouse", Mr Ramsay made excuses as to why the boat trip to the lighhouse should not occur. Here, Harry gave Natalie the option not to go on the trip, offering the same sort of excuses as Mr Ramsay. However, Natalie decided to go, and he accepted her decision.

If you want to use Jim's analogy with Ulysses and Penelope, and Joyce's "Ulysses", then both of them went off on the adventure together, rather than one of the staying, faithful, at home.

As I mentioned, one interpretation of the novel is that the baby didn't die after all. If so, the cosmic punishment didn't occur. However, what is important about the story for me is the recurring issue of suffering and blame.

As the story is told by Natalie (but possibly written by Harry/Nick, well, obviously by Nicholas as well), Harry said to Natalie that she was not to blame for the baby's death. However, she wasn't seeking forgiveness, she wanted him to accept blame, so that they could move on in their relationship. Even then, there would remain some things that could not be forgiven.

I don't see that the second relationship and marriage as condemned, only that it, too, faces its own dynamics.

Mosley talks of these events in terms of circuses and juggling and dances and tightropes.

In real life, he and the real life Natalie go off on a trip similar to the one to Morocco. He says of the trip, "But was this really a journey to find what life is like? or was this idea a fabrication of someone blown by the wind. (Or, oh, yes, both!)"

Whether or not we are dealing with selfishness or self-indulgence or character flaws or even fatal flaws, I think that there is a unity of opposites, and the moral of the story is not so much to remain monogamous or not to go on journeys, but to make the best of both worlds, if I could put it like that. Ideally, at the end of each successive journey or dance or relationship, two dancers would come in front of the curtain and hold hands.

(view spoiler)


message 36: by Ian (last edited Feb 27, 2014 02:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I found out yesterday that my friend Steve died of a heart attack on Sunday, the day I started reading this novel.

He was actually about three or four years older than me, and went to the same secondary school. I didn't know him very well then, but he was one of the coolest guys at school. In an era of short back and sides and the back of your hair not touching your collar, he had a haircut that could still turn into an Aladdin Sane look-a-like on the weekend. I don't know how he did it.

By the time I'd come back from Canberra, he'd started a record store in the city called "Rotten Records". It had been popular before I returned in 1980, but it closed down pretty soon after I returned, and Steve headed off to London for a year, his second trip after an early one in the heyday of punk, when he had been one of a number of drug suppliers to the Sex Pistols. I hadn't caught up with him in this period and only remember him from sometime in 1981 when he returned. He still looked lean and cool, but had a voluminous appetite for dope and spoke with a speedy drawl that betrayed an amazing, but underutilised, intellect behind it all.

One Friday, he rang me up and said he'd been busted for drink driving. I think it was his third serious offence, and he asked me to check out what the penalty might be. I rang a friend who was a Crown Prosecutor and it turned out that he would lose his licence for 12 months.

That day, before he'd been to court, he went into the city and organised an international drivers licence. Two days after he went to court, he and his girlfriend hopped on a plane and flew to London for 12 months, where he slipped right back into his lifestyle. He wasn't disadvantaged at all by his punishment.

I remember the night before he left, a Saturday night, it was a beautiful, starry night, in June or July, 1981.

We were going to a party at a flat above the old Samios Hardware store at Stones Corner. They always had great parties there. It's been demolished to make way for the busway station. But it still feels like a party place when I walk or drive past.

Steve had some sort of Cadillac convertible, and I can remember the three of us driving up Petrie Terrace with the roof down, when "Our Lips Are Sealed" came on the radio. His girlfriend and I stood up in the back seat and started dancing and singing. It was a moment of joy that I will never forget. That song was a perfect party song and it captured the feel of that year.

Steve only had two girlfriends during the time I knew him. Yet, he was never without a girlfriend. They blur in my memory. They were both beautiful in a slender, almost girlish way, as if they would be permanently young and never age. They both had short stylish jet black hair. They could be punk one moment and a school teacher the next. They had perfect skin. They radiated like a young, 1980's version of Elizabeth Taylor playing Cleopatra (which is why I've placed this reminiscence here). Steve subsequently married the second girl and I think they had two daughters, who are probably now in their early to mid-teens.

I didn't see much of him when he returned. But around 1985 he came back from another trip to London and moved into an apartment block next door to me. I went over for a drink and a smoke, and he put on a record he had bought. I couldn't get into it at the time. It seemed too dissonant. I couldn't hear what Steve was hearing in it and raving about. It's since become one of my favourite bands and albums: Jesus and Mary Chain, "Psychocandy".

Whenever I listen to them, it reminds me of the joy of Steve as much as the Go-Go's do.


message 37: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I'm going to stop obsessing about this book for 24 hours as a mark of respect for Steve.


message 38: by knig (new) - rated it 3 stars

knig I'm sorry to hear about your friend, Iain. But it sounds like he carpe diemed so he packed a lot in.

I like how you unravelled the Mostyns: they were preying on my mind as being a total outlier, and I can now see you've solved that puzzle.

Otherwise I totally agree with you that the idea here is not to flame anyone for their lifestyle choices: adultery or multiple marriages. We're not the moral police, after all. I only brought it up in order to put the 'staircase' into perspective, to point out that it wasn't some random existential angst but a quandary firmly based on the intricacy of human relationships, however they may evolve.

I also had a wee listen to Jesus and Mary Chain: well, Jesus. The 'ballady' interludes appealed, but too often they rev up to a 'heavy metal' pitch which I've never been a fan of. I'm more of a Lou Reed and Niko kind of girl, Diamanta Galas as far as I can take it.

Having said that, I remember being keen on the Deep Purple ballads once upon a time.


message 39: by Ian (last edited Feb 27, 2014 11:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye knig wrote: "I also had a wee listen to Jesus and Mary Chain: well, Jesus. The 'ballady' interludes appealed, but too often they rev up to a 'heavy metal' pitch which I've never been a fan of. I'm more of a Lou Reed and Niko kind of girl, Diamanta Galas as far as I can take it."

Great to hear from you, knig. I was worried I might have offended you. The Velvet Underground is my favourite band and Lou Reed my favourite artist.

I like the Jesus and Mary Chain because they rip off the Velvets, and we are no more than who we rip off.

Here is my favourite one of their songs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w9sCT...

I was a big fan of Nico as well. I saw her live around 1980 or so. Her bio is hilarious if you like tales of junkydom and squirting syringes.

I got into Diamanda a long time ago. She put a spell on me, but so did Screaming Jay Hawkins who I once saw rattle his pole.

This is a fave late era (2003) Lou song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYLj6G...

Sometimes it makes me want to cry...


back to top