Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great House, Nicole Krauss

There is the occasional novel that I find I am not quite prepared to understand. I feel there will always be those who are better able to understand our world. To capture the truths, the pains, and the frustrations of our world. Perhaps, Krauss is the master of such talents. In reading Great House I found myself removed from much of the plotting. The characters so distanced from reality and even themselves. Too self diagnosed and heavy with too many dimensions.

Great House is a novel of questions. All of the characters always asking questions of one another, of themselves, of the world at large. These aren't simple questions. These aren't questions to brush away. There is much heaviness to their inquiry. And, in the heaviness, a past. A reason to be digging so deep beyond the self as singular existence. Where do we come from? And, how did we get so far away from the selves we may have once imagined for ourselves?

Krauss is fond of objects. In her second novel, The History of Love, Krauss uses a book to travel back in time and to connect the history of its characters. Similarly, Great House uses a large desk. A writing desk. We follow this desk as it is passed through the hands of the novel's characters. Two of these characters are writers, too. The two stories of the writers are my favorite portions of the novels. They hold up strongest and follow through the most.

Krauss' language is still beautiful. The way she describes a body being lifted as if it were clothes for a laundry line... there is a poetry to her sentences. But, the poetry doesn't flow as it did in The History of Love. This time around, Krauss is seeking our darker realities. The happiness and possibility of her previous novel is all gone. We are left with searching souls unable to find a purpose or a reason for all their struggle.

It would be unfair for me to dislike this novel. I can only say I was disappointed. I wanted something closer to her second novel. I wanted something a little more focused. I feel in five to ten years, Great House will be worth revisiting. Maybe then I'll be better able to really grasp the heft of her message.


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