Friday, July 4, 2008

Oh, Tom, tell me again how it is with the sublime

Have to say I loved The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean, and I'd recommend it to adults, not just young ones. A girl on an adventure in Antarctica has an imaginary romance with the explorer Titus Oates who died in 1910. I love stories that play with reality like this -- bring the present together with the past, or with mythology or legend. Because the first couple lines might persuade you to read it, I'll quote them:
I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now -- which is ridiculous, since he's been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way. In ninety years I'll be dead, too, and then the age difference won't matter.

Love it.

McCaughrean's book also introduced me to a Napoleon quotation that may earn the dubious distinction of becoming my life's theme: "There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous," or, "Du sublime au ridicule il n'y a qu'un pas."

In doing a little googling, I found out that Napoleon was loosely quoting Thomas Paine: "The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes the sublime again."

Napoleon apparently slept with a copy of The Rights of Man under his pillow and said of Thomas Paine, "a statue of gold should be erected to you in every city in the universe." So I think he liked him.

If you'll excuse me, I'm now going to go have an imaginary, out-of-time romance with Thomas Paine.

1 comment:

Varian Johnson said...

Okay, so I loved it as well. It was very well crafted, and the author kept me guessing the entire time.

And, McCaughrean knows how to write a first sentance, doesn't she?