One paragraph of Oscar and Lucinda

Most of the way through this fine Peter Carey novel; about the book in general I don’t have much to say but that it superbly realizes the traditional novelistic virtues.  I wanted to highlight this passage, though, a bit of thought from a provincial bishop:

Dancer could not, of course he could not, have clergy who were notorious around the track, who lost their horses or their carriages because they heard a horse was “going to try.”  Sydney — a venal city — was too puritanical to allow such a thing.  But had you informed Dancer of this story after dinner, he would have found it funny.  He could find nothing in his heart against the races and he left that sort of raging to the Baptists or Methodists.  The true Church of England, he would have felt (but never said) was the Church of gentlemen.  Sometimes gentlemen incur debts.

Notes:  “of course he could not” in place of the standard “of course” is splendid.  Not sure why the doubled “horse” in the first sentence, or why “or” instead of “and” between Baptists and Methodists.  What I really like here is the closing.  If I’d written this paragraph I would have gone with the easier rhythm of “Gentlemen sometimes have debts.”  But Carey’s version — which is kind of hard to say, which can only be said aloud in the deliberate word-by-word manner Carey’s trying to suggest, and which does all the work of characterizing this bit player in the book — is massively better.

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5 thoughts on “One paragraph of Oscar and Lucinda

  1. Tom says:

    “Incur” is much better than “have.”

  2. Dirty Davey says:

    What Tom said.

  3. Greg Martin says:

    To my ear:

    “… he left that sort of raging to the Baptists and Methodists [who comprise the precise category of people who would so rage].”

    “… he left that sort of raging to the Baptists or Methodists [or whoever would concern themselves with such things - Dancer can't even summon the energy to care about precision here].”

  4. Dear Jordan,

    I came to your blog to see what was new, and was pleased to find that you were discussing my favourite Australian novelist. I also recommend Illywhacker and the True History of the Kelly Gang. The Fat Man in History also has some good stories.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  5. JSE says:

    True History of the Kelly Gang is A. MA. ZING.

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