August 30th, 2005

brett

Elegant

Book Review: Hawksmoor, by Peter Ackroyd
Most of all I was reminded of Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach when I read this book, because of the Carrollian intellectual games that are played with the reader. Two stories 250 years apart, concerning a certain Nicholas Dyer in the eighteenth century and a Nicholas Hawksmoor in the twentieth, are cleverly entwined, their symmetries and differencies nonchalantly inserted. The character writing is clever; I particularly liked the description of Christopher Wren's experiments involving a cat and a vacuum pump at the Royal Society (don't worry, no cats were really harmed in the writing of this book, I am sure) and the section written as a play scene in the style of a Restoration comedy. The games aspect aside, though, it's fairly drily and densely written, and one probably needs a particular taste for Ackroyd's macarbre passions (which I don't have) to get more out of the main plots of the book.