Review: “The Golden Gate” by Vikram Seth

Thumbs up for The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. Literature/poetry.

I loved this. It’s one of my favorites so far this year. The easy summation is Tales of the City told as a series of sonnets…and we’re going to go with that, because that’s exactly what it is, San Franciscan setting, soap-opera plot and all. But it’s the writing that makes it so effervescently delightful. The idea of a novel in verse sounds likely to be hellacious, but it rhymes and scans without a trace of awkwardness or effort: which tells you that a heck of a lot of effort went into it. As I chortled through my lunch hours, I kept wanting to rush back to work to read my coworkers stanzas. There are none that are less than brilliant, whether Seth is writing about love, death, cats, iguanas, olive-picking, political demonstrations, or is just being hilariously meta:

To link this chapter of the novel
To John’s departure, sketched before,
Requires a flashback. (I should grovel
At this cheap stratagem, and, more,
My bard card should be burned.) Dear Reader,
In mitigation, let me plead a
Drainage of brain. Perhaps you’ll wait
Till it’s recharged?…You indicate
I must continue with the story?
“Nae man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride…”
Well, dinna fidge – I willna bore ye.
(A safe bet: if you’ve read till here,
You must possess an iron ear.)

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