I’ve Been Told

The old writing adage is “show, don’t tell” but occasionally I like to be told. Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal is rife with thinkingtelling and the book is richer for it. It’s splendidly observant but the characters are unreal, distant for the frankness, tactlessness with which they speak. I have no sympathy for them and so wouldn’t have any patience for a young protagonist slowly realizing that an older woman’s beauty may be accentuated rather than marred by a laugh line. In fact, I would be sure to find it trite and rather annoying. But tell me that “He had supposed (though never truly consciously) that a woman was only attractive insofar as she resembled a girl; that her attractiveness fell away, by degrees, through her twenties and thirties until it was buried by middle age; that the qualities that women sought were always the qualities they once had..” and you have me. All of us can observe, however inaccurately, but sometimes I want to do away with ambiguity, with interpretation, and just be told what you think.

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