March 21, 2017
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Patrick Gale, a gay, UK author, whose novels are redolent with superbly crafted prose and delicately sensitive constructions of character; both of whom generously lend the fiction their lavender, recently wrote A Perfectly Good Man (2012). It is the picaresque tale of a religious cleric and a teacher dubiously charged with rape, whose paths intertwine. Another of the novel’s characters is called Dorothy (gift of god).
I bought the novel years ago but baulked at the phrase ‘paedophilia’, not another story like that, thought I. My own life contained enough of that.So the novel went unread until now.
Both men are punished by social opinion; the cleric manages to deflect local condemnation, (no details, spoiler alert). He gives a sermon about the resurrection, quoting Dorothy Sayers’ account of Lazarus describing life after death as being the moment of glimpsing the “beautiful and terrible” front of a tapestry while the living must content themselves with seeing only the tangle of knotted threads at its rear.
Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey inhabited a world of panelled houses hung with large scale Flemish tapestries, by and large ignored. Unless I have forgotten some action behind the wall hanging, as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Polonius is stabbed through the ‘arras’. One might picture a tapestry making such an impact in Sayers’ or Wimsey’s world.
I was struck, from my career of weaving tapestry for 40 years how we spurn, as it were, the tapestry’s reverse and fixate on the perfect front; though the reverse is a necessary chaos, it plays its role in the completed image.