viernes, 24 de octubre de 2008

The Destiny Of Natalie X by William Boyd

An aspect of William Boyd’s writing that always seems close to the surface of his work is an examination of selfishness. At the very least, his characters fulfil their self-interest. One recalls how the events of The New Confessions or Any Human Heart unfold, how in both cases the central character’s aspirations are forever paramount, often to the detriment of those he proclaims to love. But it is probably in his short stories that this theme is best illustrated and his collection, The Tragedy Of Natalie X, does precisely that.

Two of the stories, The Dream Lover and Alpes Maritimes, in just twenty pages each, pursue there ideas in depth. In the first, a student in a south of France university is envious of the obvious wealth and easy-going lifestyle of an American fellow student. This well-heeled American splashes money around, advertises his talents and gets the girls – at least in theory. He even has a desirable Afghan coat. By the end of the story, the narrator has utterly reversed the roles. Not only does he come out on top financially, he goes off with the girl, and even gets the coat. In addition, he has benefited from the other’s profligacy along the way.

Another side of selfishness is expressed via responses to temptation, specifically to the proximity of opportunity. Even a man in a stable, happy relationship cannot avoid speculating what a taste of something different might bring. The possibility that it might sour everything else is, of course, never contemplated. In Alpes Maritimes a lusty young man just cannot resist the idea that grass is greener on the other side of the twins. His partner is one twin, his desire might be the other. He years to sample what he seems to see as the merchandise.

So while it is in progress, William Boyd suggests that life may be a neurotic search for ever greater fulfilment, even if that is only imagined. Future promise, it seems, always surpasses experience. When it is ended, however, life seems inconsequential. We live, we love, we dream, we die. And we are soon forgotten, even the turbulence of the journey is soon smoothed. Those with whom we have shared our lives may remember us for a while, but even memory, it seems, is founded in self-interest. Perhaps memory of a deceased is the livings’ mechanism of coping with their own future.

The Destiny Of Natalie X, the title story, deals with the making of a film. It addresses pretence and the inflation of egos. But it also makes us think of the mundane and how, for every individual, it remains special, the only possible existence.

As ever, William Boyd uses many different forms to express his ideas. For some readers this variability may get in the way of appreciation of the material. But rest assured, the material is worth the challenge and, if it forms a barrier, then the stories are worth several readings until their challenges are overcome.

View this book on amazon
"The Destiny of Natalie X" and Other Stories

2 comentarios:

twikipedia dijo...
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twikipedia dijo...

Have you read his latest work "Any Human Heart"? I was researching him and came across some a video interview - I didn't know he was also a screenwriter: