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Hopeful Monsters ()

Brothers Judd Top 100 of the 20th Century: Novels

    [T]he overall pattern of their story (so they seem to have been saying) had been one of trying to
    learn how to deal with the patterns of the self-destructive society they were part of--how to see
    clearly, how to try to become not destructive themselves, and by doing this to be doing what they
    could for society.
        -Hopeful Monsters

I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to avoid the topic, but it is impossible : Nicholas Mosley is the son of Sir Oswald Mosely, leader of the British Fascists in the 1930s, caricatured in Aldous Huxley's Point-Counter Point and elsewhere.  Nicholas also happens to be a highly regarded and quite accomplished novelists, so enough about that.

It is often said by those seeking to defend James Joyce that those of us who dismiss him simply don't wish to be challenged.  But Hopeful Monsters proves that a novel can challenge a reader intellectually but still provide him with an enjoyable reading experience.  The story, which is actually just one part of  the Catastrophe Practice series of novels, tells both the story of two lovers, Max Ackerman and Eleanor Anders, and of the 20th Century.  Max is a young English physics student, who meets folks like Ludwig Wittgenstein at garden parties, Eleanor a German Jewish anthropologist, whose mother was a disciple of Rosa Luxemburg.  Between them they meet many of the most influential figures of their time and contemplate nearly all of its trends and ideas, scientific, political, and philosophical.

The hopeful monsters of the title are salamanders that Max raised as a boy and which physically adapted to their environment, evolving within a generation.  Mosely's hopeful suggestion is that perhaps there's a kind of Heisenberg Principle for biology as well as for physics and that by observing ourselves and becoming conscious of the need to evolve beyond our current state, we will influence the process.  We will evolve to the next level because we realize the need to do so.  Or at least I think that's what he's saying.  I'm not really sure, but I do know that the novel is a veritable blizzard of ideas, most of them interesting, some maddeningly elusive, but all of them worth pondering.

Even with all this, Mosley never loses track of the complicated relationship between Max and Eleanor,  In the final chapters of the book he brings them together for a final affecting scene and manages to tie up most of the philosophical gist of the book (I think).  If you are looking for a novel that will make you think, but will keep your attention, you can't do better than this one


Grade: (A)


Nicholas Mosley Links:

    Beyond good and evil: For 60 years, Nicholas Mosley has written novels that are widely admired but not always understood. Rejecting realism, his work addresses symbolic truths—notably the idea that good and evil are inseparable. It's an approach that has put him at odds with the literary establishment (Edward Skidelsky, Prospect)
    -REVIEW: of Inventing God by Nicholas Mosely (James Buchan, Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Inventing God by Nicholas Mosley (David Robson, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Inventing God by Nicholas Mosley (David Flusfeder, Daily Telegraph)

Book-related and General Links:
    -AUTHOR PAGE : Nicholas Mosley (Dalkey Archive Press)
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of The Hesperides Tree by Nicholas Mosley
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Children of Darkness and Light  By Nicholas Mosley
    -ARCHIVES : "nicholas mosley" (Daily Telegraph)
    -ESSAY : Do not go gentle into that good night  (Nicholas Mosley, 22 November 1998, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW : of From Wodehouse to  Wittgenstein: Essays by Anthony Quinton (Nicholas Mosley, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW : of   D. H. Lawrence: Dying Game 1922-1930 by David  Ellis (Nicholas Mosley, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW : of Disgrace by J M Coetzee (Nicholas Mosley, Literary Review)
    -REVIEW : of Trevor Huddleston: a life by Robin Denniston (Nicholas Mosley, The Tablet)
    -BIO : Nicholas Mosley (Barnes & Noble)
    -INTERVIEW : Dalkey Archive Press: An Interview with Nicholas Mosley (John O'Brien, Center for Book Culture)
    -PROFILE : An Author Hopes for a Benign Human Mutation (CRAIG R. WHITNEY, The New York Times, 1991)
    -PROFILE : Headliners; Sudden Fame (NY Times, 1991)
    -PROFILE : Nicholas Mosley (JASON ANDERSON, eye)
    -ARCHIVES : "nicholas mosley" (NY Review of Books)
    -ARCHIVES : "nicholas mosley" (Guardian Unlimited)
    -READERS GUIDE : Notes for classroom discussion Nicholas Mosley, Hopeful Monsters (Daniel Traister)
    -REVIEW : of Hopeful Monsters By Nicholas Mosley  (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Hopeful Monsters By Nicholas Mosley  (Daniel Stern, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Hopeful Monsters : TESTING CATASTROPHE : The Matrix of Love, Obsession, and Nicholas Mosley (Kreg K. Hasegawa, The Stranger)
    -REVIEW : of Serpent by Nicholas Mosley (Bill Broun, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of CHILDREN OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT By Nicholas Mosley (Bruce Bawer, washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of The Hesperides Tree by Nicholas Mosley  (Robert Potts, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of The Hesperides Tree (Melanie Palmer, What Am I Going to Read)
    -REVIEW : of The Hesperides Tree by Nicholas Mosley (Katharine Weber, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Inventing God by Nicholas Mosley (Robert Edric, The Spectator)
    -AWARDS : Whitbread Prize 1990 Hopeful Monster

    -FILMOGRAPHY : Nicholas Mosley (Imdb)
    -INFO : Hopeful Monsters (1996) (Imdb)

    -ESSAY :   CONTEXUALISING MOSLEY : Following Channel 4's recent screening of the four-part drama Mosley,  Paul Martin questions the role of the fascist bogeyman in our national  consciousness. (Paul Martin, May 1998, History Today)
    -ESSAY : Mosley madness (Searchlight March 1998)
    -ESSAY : MOSLEY: RECORD NO STRAIGHTER AFTER LATEST TELEVISION SERIES : JOHN TYNDALL comments on the Channel Four docudrama and other current chatter about Britain's one-time Fascist leader
   The brutish British: You think Nazism couldnÕt happen here? Theodore Dalrymple isnÕt so sure. (Theodore Dalrymple, The Spectator)