Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Net of Time

May 18, 2006 6:38 pm

The Net of Time

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

In the latest (June ’06) issue of Liberty, in a review of Stephen Cox’s excellent Isabel Paterson biography, Bruce Ramsey writes:

Though Paterson penned novels, some of which Cox says are good, all have been out of print for more than half a century.

I’ve read all eight of her published novels, and greatly enjoyed them. My copy of The Singing Season is autographed by Paterson herself:

To John Farrar
           With the sincere regards
           of a contributor to an
           editor and the indescribable
           sentiments of an author toward
           a possible critic
From Isabel Paterson
But it’s not quite true to say that her novels are all long out of print. As I’ve blogged previously, Paterson’s Never Ask the End was recently reissued by Kessinger Publishing. (Some of Kessinger’s reprints are shoddy disasters – see my Amazon review of their messed-up edition of Lysander Spooner’s Vices Are Not Crimes, for example – but this Paterson one is just fine.)

Is it any good? Judge for yourself. Here’s an in my opinion beautiful excerpt in which the protagonist is contemplating the statues in the garden of my beloved Musée Cluny in Paris. (The garden, while still lovely, nowadays no longer contains these statues, but you can see photos here of how they once looked.)

Sitting on the steps of the side entrance, with her chin on her hand, she discovered why she had stopped here. In the long grass of the garden, fragments of medieval sculpture reposed tranquilly. Their granite features were blunted, all but effaced. It gave them a ghostly aspect, an infinite calm. It is the material substance that is ghostly, she thought. It wears thin, dissolving with time. Something more powerful and enduring wears it out ... The soul, having stooped to embrace mortality, is caught in the net of time. It strives to break through by the keen devices of the intellect, by the intensity of passion, the persuasion of tenderness, even the violence of anger; and falls back on silence at the last. But at parting it cries out, wait, one moment more and I could have told you ... oh, wait! What we desire is communication. ... Perhaps, some other where, we achieve it, by a persistence to which even granite must yield.

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