Monday, March 13, 2006
John Crowley is one of my favourite authors - his "Little, Big" is one of my all-time favourite novels. His latest book is "Lord Byron's Novel - the Evening Land".
According to Mary Shelley's introduction to Frankenstein, one evening in June 1816, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Dr Polidori met at Villa Diodati near lake Geneva. After a ghost story, Byron suggested they all write a horror story.
No prose from Lord Byron has survived, but Crowley has imagined the novel that Byron may have written, including various episodes based on the poets life: but the book is much more than this.
Byron's daughter was Ada Lovelace, the noted mathematician who corresponded with Babbage on programming the Analytical Engine - she is often noted as writing the first computer program. Her mother left Byron when Ada was less than one year old, she never knew her father.
Crowley's book posits that Ada inherited the manuscript of the book, and wrote some annotations - but then agreed to destroy the book due to the close similarity between the plot and with scandals in the family.
The present novel intersperses the Byron text with her annotations, and also the email correspondence between the modern day discoverers of papers containing these annotations and many pages of what appear to be mathematical tables.
I can't claim to know much about Byron, or the 1820's style of writing, but I'm sure Crowley has done his research properly, and he's created a brilliant pastiche novel with resonances between Byron's life story, that of Ali his protagonist, and the modern day finders of the papers.