Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bizarre Love Triangle

by Dan Jacobson

I’ve often heard it said that one’s ability to take responsibility for one’s own actions is the highest indicator of self-esteem. Don’t tell that to the protagonists of this book. Certainly we the readers are entertained by their devastating choices, but it’s their inability to relent in the pursuit of the inevitable consequences that fascinates. I can only liken the behavior of these people to the current exploits of Britney Spears. However, I don’t think Ms. Spears is as enamored with the acting out of the dramatization of her own saga as much as Princess Louise and her erstwhile lover Mattachich. Once on top of the world, Britney is insistent on degrading herself, but in the pursuit of pleasure. For the lovers of this historical novel, pleasure never really comes into it.

I believe the book’s titular “love” was never part of their endgame (sorry to disappoint!). They are two united pilgrims of imagination, seeking to discover what lies beyond the strictures of class in Hapsburg Vienna. Once they find it, puzzlingly, they don’t stop. They continue on in an intractable gyre of indigence and affliction of their own making, only ending, in this life at least, in death. While on the one hand the reader marvels at their brazen, obscene commitment to finish what they audaciously start, one cannot help but ponder, was it all worth it?

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