Friday, September 22, 2017

Mr Weston's Good Wine

I don’t remember where I read about Mr. Weston’s Good Wine, by Theodore Powys, but it was just a couple of days ago. The idea intrigued me (and the book was in the library): a traveling wine merchant comes to the village of Folly Down and time stops. The wine merchant turns out to be God.

His assistant’s name is Michael. They purvey vintages new and old—the very oldest and darkest are cash-only sales—no credit.

The book is supposed to be T.F. Powys’s masterpiece. The setting and characters are well-drawn, the story ambles along nicely, and there’s redemption and damnation. There are predators and innocents, dark secrets, a local version of St. Francis and a priest who doesn't believe in God, and a girl who fell in love with a picture of an angel and won’t be satisfied with a mere man. What else could you wish for?

Well, a story with God incognito should have Him display—not gravitas exactly, the incognito forbids that--fittingness. Weston is at pains to distance himself from organized religion (he’s never been to church before) and he didn’t really mean for people to take the Bible seriously. Author’s privilege so far. But most of the resolutions involve (perhaps not surprisingly, given the book’s title) Cana in one form or another—as though there were no other loves than the sexual. Maybe Powys wanted to use marriage to stand in for other things (as Paul did), but if so I missed it. Powys and his wife did have children, so he knew there were other varieties of love.

In other words, there’s a whiff of ground axe and most of the denouements seem a bit of a single-note. (Love or death--or both) The miracle is telegraphed, but the judgment and punishment comes out of nowhere—I can think of several authors who’d have done that scene better, though perhaps with less elegant prose. When you write an allegory, the core needs to hold up better than that.


1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Lewis wrote many times about the modern tendency to regard sex as more important than other considerations, thus bending moral meanings.