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Magnificence

av Lydia Millet

Serier: Extinction (3)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
15111182,015 (3.67)6
Fiction. Literature. HTML:

This stunning novel introduces Susan Lindley, a woman adrift after her husband's death. Suddenly gifted her great uncle's Pasadena mansion, Susan decides to restore his extensive collection of preserved animals, tending to "the fur and feathers, the beaks, the bones and shimmering tails." Meanwhile, a menagerie of uniquely damaged humans??including a cheating husband and a chorus of eccentric elderly women??joins her in residence. Funny and heartbreaking, Magnificence is the story of a woman emerging from the sudden dissolution of her family. Millet's trademark themes??evolution and extinction, children and parenthood, loss and wonder??produce a rapturous final act to the critically acclaimed cycle of novels that began with How the Dead… (mer)

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Visa 1-5 av 11 (nästa | visa alla)
This might be my favorite book of the whole trio; ironically, it is also the last. Lydia Millet continues to be one of my favorite American authors - and she will continue to be as long as she keeps writing books like these. Here's hoping that they'll one day release all three books in omnibus format for re-reading purposes. ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
It's taken me a long time, but I think I've finally worked out what makes Millet's trilogy so odd, even though the books are perfectly readable and lack the obvious oddness of her other recent work (e.g., Mermaids in Paradise or Oh Pure and Radiant Heart!) The novels in the 'Dead' trilogy present themselves as almost perfectly generic modern fiction--told from one close third person point of view, with little plot, and a lot of the 'realistic' psychological detail that people like James Woods really enjoy.

Novels like that are intrinsically limited: the protagonists are always upper middle class westerners who have literally nothing interesting happen to them other than marriage/divorce, sex, and death. So those are the events that such novels deal with. That's fine, it's realistic, and these are supposedly the great themes of literature, but really, there's a lot more to life.

Millet's trilogy is strange because although they present themselves as realistic psychological novels, they actually deal with seemingly random events. Here, the book is set up by the death of Susan's husband, shortly after he realized that Susan was cheating on him (a lot). So far, so banally realistic. But then Susan inherits a house full of stuffed animals from a mysterious uncle she barely remembers, and suddenly we're in the world of nineteenth century gothic fiction. Then some old women move in, for no particularly good reason. In other words, there's no organic plot development in these novels. Everything that happens happens for no good reason. Modern realism just doesn't work like that.

Particularly in 'Ghost Lights,' I found this contrived and pointless. But this novel is something else, a great conclusion to the work. It became clear fairly quickly that the important part of the book wasn't its depiction of post-menopausal sexuality, or grief, or whatever (though that was fine). The important part is the house itself, with its unworthy inheritor, its collection of animals hunted by the mysterious uncle, the old women who come to live there as well, and then the conclusion to the book, another out of nowhere piece of improbability that nonetheless makes perfect intellectual sense.

Millet did the same thing at the end of 'Mermaids,' and there it was just too ridiculous and implausible to justify the very slight gain in intellectual depth. Here, the improbabilities make a strong enough point that I wasn't bothered by the jarring effect.

Plot spoiler! What is that intellectual depth?

The uncle turns out to have a secret cache of extinct animals in a secret cellar, including the dodo and, chillingly, humans from extinct tribes. The house is cut off from the cellar, but also built on top of it; Susan and the older women are essentially taking care of all of these biological specimens, or, rather, the memories of them--which ties in perfectly to the memories of her husband.

The other possible, virtuous response to ecological destruction is taken by T. and Susan's daughter Casey--they jet around the world, trying to save animals and help the victims of capitalism/environmental destruction. That's not for everyone, and in particular it's not for me, so I appreciate the 'keep the memory alive, do the best you can' aspects of this one. It is open to one fairly obvious criticism, of course: Susan inherits massive wealth, and T. makes massive wealth doing bad things. In other words, lots of massive wealth. It's interesting to think what Millet might do with some ordinary middle class types and her usual environmental themes. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Of Lydia Millet's L.A. Cycle, this is definitely the odd man out. Of the three, it's the only one where the crisis and catharsis isn't set on foreign soil. It's the only one with a female protagonist.

My impression of it is also that its language is somewhat less... elevated, may be the best way of phrasing it. The central metaphoric device is also the most blatantly obvious of the three novels.

It's a more prosaic work than its compatriots.

None of this is to suggest that this novel isn't up to Ms. Millet's full talent and the standards set by her other work. There's purpose in her lack of refinement here. It's intentional and effective.

It's supposed to be different. It's simply that its intended effect isn't as clear to me as it was in the other two books.

Unlike How the Dead Dream and Ghost Lights - both of which compelled me so powerfully that I read each of them in one sitting - I had no problem setting down Magnificence a couple of times and reading it over the course of a few evenings.

Again - this is not to say that this book is any worse than the other two in the cycle - but it didn't compel me the way the other two did. It didn't move me with the same sense of satori. It may be that it's a less powerful work (and, if so, I fully credit that it's purposely so). It may simply be a more subtle work whose full effect won't come clear to me for some time.

We shall see. In any case, this novel does nothing reduce Ms. Millet's position as one of my favorite living novelists. ( )
  johnthelibrarian | Aug 11, 2020 |
So glad to have discovered writer Lydia Millet during this awful period in history, a darkly comic relief. I read the 1st of this trilogy recently and loved it. Wasn't able to get the 2nd but looking forward to reading it soon. These books as far as I can tell stand on their own but love learning more about the characters from How the Dead Dream. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Apr 28, 2020 |
I recognize this book is not one everyone will universally enjoy. I really struggled at the beginning- the main character seemed so whiny and it was a bit repetitive. Once I got through the first 50 pages or so, the book opened up and became so thoughtful and funny and moving. I loved it. Also, her description of fantasy baseball is priceless (speaking as someone whose husband is ridiculously serious about the "sport"). ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
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Fiction. Literature. HTML:

This stunning novel introduces Susan Lindley, a woman adrift after her husband's death. Suddenly gifted her great uncle's Pasadena mansion, Susan decides to restore his extensive collection of preserved animals, tending to "the fur and feathers, the beaks, the bones and shimmering tails." Meanwhile, a menagerie of uniquely damaged humans??including a cheating husband and a chorus of eccentric elderly women??joins her in residence. Funny and heartbreaking, Magnificence is the story of a woman emerging from the sudden dissolution of her family. Millet's trademark themes??evolution and extinction, children and parenthood, loss and wonder??produce a rapturous final act to the critically acclaimed cycle of novels that began with How the Dead

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