(Wrapping up Your Face This Spring, we have a guest post from Neil Griffin, another prolific commenter. Here he articulates why he found the world of Your Face Tomorrow uncommonly absorbing.)
Like Scott guessed in a previous YFTS post, there were readers other than him who skipped ahead and read the book quicker than our planned time-line, and I was one of these book-club-rule-breaking offenders. I didn’t start cheating right away. The first few weeks I assumed that I would stick to the schedule, since I had eased into the book leisurely and enjoyed reading 50 or so pages a week and soaking in the consciousness of Deza in all its anxious and wise glory, and then exiting after the prescribed pages with no symptoms of withdrawal. I was even able to read other unrelated books in between assignments and then pick up from where I left off rather painlessly.
Then Tupra came into the story.
I threw the syllabus into the slow-moving river as soon as Deza was swept into Tupra’s world of shifting identities, translation, interpretation, fever, spears, and, ultimately, poison. There’s a section in the first book, when Deza describes his surveillance where I did indeed feel like I was under some feverish spell, from which I didn’t recover–if indeed I am recovered–until the final page of the third book.
So why did I enter this book so thoroughly?
When I tried to explain the book to my friends they thought me strange for being drawn into this world, which I articulated rather on the nose. In Fever and Spear, for example, I explained the plot, as follows: “There’s a Spaniard living in London who gets invited to a party, where he meets an interesting person, whom he eventually works for. He also finds a spot of blood on the stairs and speaks to his old mentor about the atmosphere during the great war.”
Cue looks of confusion and empty words: oh, sounds like an interesting read.
And my friends’ indifference makes sense on a plot level; there really isn’t much going on externally. But Marias makes the book stick to the reader by bringing up universal thoughts, worries, and anxieties through the medium of Deza’s mind. The thoughts colliding into one another create phenomenal images and wordplay that still circulate through my consciousness, even though I finished this two months ago: the ephemeral snow on shoulders, the slow river, the fever, the scratch, farewell my friends, the dancer, the bathroom of bare legs and brutal assaults, the sword, the murdered baby, baiting the man like a bull, Custardoy’s eyes, and the dormant silence always ready to erupt, while the shadow of the 1930s and 40s remains splattered in the present like the rim of blood, which is the hardest part to remove from my memory.
This is the best way I can articulate the magic of this book: through assorted fragments, gestures, thoughts, and insinuations that have been poured into my mind’s eye like an ecstatic poison.