the rings of saturn

A man goes for a walk along the Suffolk coast. And then over the entire county. Across several days -- along beaches, through fields and forests and marsh land, up hills and following nearly forgotten tracks -- the narrator describes a landscape blighted by neglect, disappearance, and loss, and the accumulated weight of better days, as if the remaining population was paying the price of having history. The beaches are deserted, the fields ghostly, the forests either menacing or underpopulated by stumps and cinders. Every town and inn and manor house is a kind of haunted place. Weaved into all this is anything and everything: the imaginary dictionary of Sir Thomas Browne, a dissection of Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson, the herring fishery, the Battle of Sole Bay, Ustasha, the Congo, Roger Casement, the Dowager Empress Tz'u-hsi, the poet Charles Swinburne, the writer Edward FitzGerald, European efforts at silk production, and so on. And so on and so on, all of it covered in a kind of dusky weariness, the kind of sadness you find in old rooms. Otherwise, nothing happens. I am always amazed when books like this get published, because they have no hope of making any money, but instead try for something more important.  


  1. There can be a problem with reading a book about a tract about imaginary books. Sir Thomas Browne's Museum Clausum (tract 12) is not really a dictionary at all. More correctly it is a list of imagined or lost books, pictures and objects.


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