Thursday, December 09, 2010

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost

Just finished reading All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost. What a great read. I think Lan Samantha Chang has totally nailed it -- the lives and lot of poets. The four main characters, over the course of their lives, live out four related but very different life trajectories. Miranda is the stern distant demanding teacher, worshipped and feared by her students, who has an affair with one, and ends up choosing his first book for a prize, setting his career in motion, even while her own has peaked. Roman is the brilliant, petulant, lucky student, who grows to get the prizes, the university teaching gigs, the fame, but who ends up unhappy, unfulfilled, feels perhaps even a fraud. Bernard is the recluse, working all his life on one long unpublished poem, carrying on letter-writing correspondences with "the writers of our time," and who is jealous of Roman's successes, but remains committed to his own personal artistic vision-- he is perhaps the "true poet" of the four. Lucy is the poet who puts her career on hold to be wife and mother, supportive of her spouse's career, and only returns to her writing later in life, renewed. It's a fascinating study of the motivations and drives and desires of these four poets; the relationships between students and mentors, poetry friends, poetry marriages; how things change (or don't ever change) over time. How in many ways "all that matters is the work." Or is it: all that matters is the relationships? Highly recommended.


Jeannine said...

You know, I didn't think any of the characters were fully developed enough to make it feel like a true contemporary novel - it felt more like a morality tale of the 19th century to me..

Peter said...

Hi Jeannine. I agree, a little thin on the characters, but it is a pretty short book, more a novella? I really connected to it once it got going, and couldn't put it down.