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Monday, 14 December 2015

Capturing the Moment

Image result for Boyd caressWilliam Boyd's latest novel "Sweet Caress" is a fictional autobiography about a woman photographer named Amory Clay. I enjoyed the book which I read over the course of two days. The first person voice reminded me of "Brazzaville Beach" which I liked better, perhaps because the material is more intrinsically interesting. Amory seeks throughout her life to 'capture the moment' in a photograph and it made me wonder if this is even possible? What would it mean to "capture a moment". Like any artist the photographer seeks to communicate something he or she has felt, using a particular medium, in Amory's case a black and white photograph. But how successful can such communication ever be? To my mind it is doomed to failure. Even the greatest artists (I'm thinking of painters and composers) can only hint at what they feel, and hope that the viewer/listener is sufficiently sympathetic to approximate the generative emotion. And what about novelists? I have read most of Boyd's work and found it good, but I am asking myself what was he trying to convey to me, the reader, in this book? For a start the fictional autobiographer is a woman; Boyd and I are men - does that suggest a fall at the first hurdle? And as far as I can tell Amory never actually achieves her aim of capturing the moment except perhaps in one photograph, taken almost by accident, of a soldier at the moment of death. Amory's life is eventful, sometimes traumatic, but generally not so different from yours or mine. She has her vices, her small triumphs, her failures, but I suppose her main characteristic, for me, is determination to do what feels right to her. So, perhaps that is Boyd's message - be true to your feelings and never give up? I guess I will never know. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with much of what you say but for me the character of Amory Clay had one decidedly unfemale tendency that made her unbelievable. She kept writing about the penises ..in some detail I might add, of her lovers. I don't think women do that. In fact they tend to avoid lingering on this distinctively unattractive part of the anatomy. I agree that some of the characters appeared and then were not followed through but this is what happens in life so it did not worry me. I thought the ending was a little weak too, but overall it was an enjoyable read. Not as good as Brazzaville Beach though..my favourite William Boyd.