From Alan Hollinghurst’s The Folding Star (1994)

And here’s an example of why I love Hollinghurst so much:

My route to the Town Baths was vague enough in my mind to take in the street where Luc lived without forcing, but when I came past the house I looked down nervously, and only glanced for a second searchingly into the ground-floor windows. Evening was coming on, and I could see nothing in the front rooms beyond the heavy swags of Mrs Altidore’s curtains. And on the first floor, something else, the gleams of a disc, like a lens, suspended just inside the glass and catching the light with a flash of animation. Better not to see him just now. The sudden ebbing of anxiety; and then the wallow as a questing wave of apprehension pushed into the inlet of my heart: perhaps that was what Wordsworth meant in a passage I would be teaching Luc much later on when he spoke of sensations felt along the heart — as if the heart were a sea-beach on which feeling rhythmically broke. I recognised a deep-suppressed cold fear of water and the schooltime echo of our high-raftered swimming baths. (The Folding Star 78)

While the allusion to Wordsworth may seem a bit too ham-fisted for some readers, I cannot help but swoon at the emphasis on “along” and on the way our narrator’s epiphanic close reading (“perhaps this is what Wordsworth meant [. . .] as if the heart were a sea-beach”) that brings him away from his fantasies of Luc and toward his present destination: the Flemish town baths. The vulnerability and the creativity of the heart . . .

One comment

  1. The Folding Star has made a profound effect on me.
    I love Hollinghurst’s occasional sublime lyrical passages.
    The final paragraph of the novel left me in tears.

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