Angels & Insects: Two Novellas by A. S. Byatt

By A. S. Byatt

In those breathtaking novellas, A.S. Byatt returns to the territory she explored in ownership: the panorama of Victorian England, the place technology and spiritualism are either well known manias, and family decorum coexists with brutality and perversion. Angels and bugs is "delicate and hopefully ironic.... Byatt completely blends laughter and sympathy [with] impressive sensuality" (San Francisco Examiner).

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In the NY hotel rm (they turn up again in Angst)—what good’s writing? ’’ Forgotten underlined three times, as if forgotten by three forgettings. To which add today the forgetting that followed upon these notes, interrupted for the time being by the finding of the ................. 16582$ $CH3 10-11-07 15:26:56 PS PAGE 35 post-it. Is this the fourth forgetting? How many forgettings does it take to forget, then to forget, then to forget about the forgetting? I remember the forgotten roses very well, backs straight him sprawled on the couch in room 91 them erect upright legs bunched together in the hotel vase saying we’ve been waiting for you red long-stemmed, showy, stout, vigorous roses, in the room I don’t see them as they are but for what they meant.

It was only many years later I noticed the Detail that gives us access to ‘‘The Metamorphosis’’ (‘‘Die Verwandlung’’) though it is perfectly obvious in the entryway where it vegetates and stinks, the eternal cadaver posted as a warning to the reader. But as it doesn’t call out or moan or squeak the avid visitor sweeps indifferently past the prophetic vignette and throws himself into the front room from which he doesn’t emerge alive. If only you’d read the warning Nothing wouldn’t have happened.

I wept. I should have taken out the lens. 27 the eye-patch ................. 16582$ $CH2 10-11-07 15:26:55 PS PAGE 27 * * * This whole story turns on an eye, now one of the eyes of one character, now one of the eyes of the other. This comment is totally extraneous to the story’s events. It belongs to the Tale. To the Tale, that is, version 2000. Before this date a thin sheet of soundproof glass slipped itself between the story’s events and the Tale. So long as I wore a contact lens (that is, one lens) I couldn’t tell.

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