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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Look at the Dark

Nicholas Mosley

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To purchase Look at the Dark

Title: Look at the Dark
Author: Nicholas Mosley
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005
Length: 214 pages
Availability: Look at the Dark - US
Look at the Dark - UK
Look at the Dark - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : rambling philosophising, with some appeal

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 8/4/2005 Jonathan Derbyshire
The Guardian . 23/4/2005 James Flint
Literary Review . 5/2005 Ophelia Field
The LA Times . 5/2/2006 Susan Salter Reynolds
Sunday Telegraph . 24/4/2005 Alastair Sooke
Sunday Times . 1/5/2005 John Spurling
TLS . 15/4/2005 Gabriel Josipovici

  From the Reviews:
  • "The English novelist Mosley most closely resembles in his philosophical ambition is Iris Murdoch, who also regarded the novel as embodying a kind of moral outlook. As with her, it seems reasonable to measure Mosley’s novels against the standards set by his criticism. And by these, Look at the Dark must be judged a failure. This isn’t, as with many English novels, a failure of ambition -- it’s an aesthetic failure that is felt at the level of the sentence, in the grimly unmetaphorical prose and in the carelessness of Mosley’s descriptions" - Jonathan Derbyshire, Financial Times

  • "Like its narrator, this rather beautiful book, pitched somewhere between the phenomenologically insubstantial novels of Maurice Blanchot and the existential mask-play of Kundera's The Incredible Lightness of Being, smiles slightly creepily but offers no reply." - James Flint, The Guardian

  • "Mosley captures all the hesitation and humor of daily life with one eye on that other level of existence -- the world of intuition, ghosts; the tentative fabric of life and all its fraying ends." - Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times

  • "(H)ere there are pages of dialogue in which wires are deliberately crossed, language malfunctions and meaning is lost. Mosley follows the imperative of his title: the novel is a study of opacity. (...) This book isn't just about darkling language. It's also a meditation on mortality. (...) There is a pleasure in the delicately calibrated patterning, which sparks synapses and gets the cerebral fluids flowing. Without much narrative structure, though, the book rambles and stutters, as though aping the desiccated mumblings of a man about to die." - Alastair Sooke, Sunday Telegraph

  • "I would like Look at the Dark to be a very good work of fiction, but, somehow, I feel that though it has high ambitions, ambitions alien to the English novel and with which I am in sympathy, it fails to find a form to realize them." - Gabriel Josipovici, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The narrator of Look at the Dark is a retired English academic, "an anthroplogist with a special interest in language and literature". Among his theories is that language is "a curse as well as a boon", allowing for deception as much as actual communication.
       His challenging pronouncements make him a sought-after commentator, and he's invited to the United States to appear on television in 2002, prepared to say some fairly shocking things. Before he has a chance to, he gets run down and winds up in hospital with a serious leg injury. This, in turn, gives him the opportunity to look back on his life.
       His first wife, Valerie, re-enters his life -- pretending to still be married to him, in order to cover his hospital expenses. (He doesn't want to bother his second, current wife, Valentina, so makes no effort to get in touch with her.) His family situation is fairly odd, but then he's a guy who met his second wife by following a girl (her daughter) home on a bus and then just staying with them.
       The next generation -- his son Adam and step-daughter Cathy -- also have some issues of their own, all of which he is fairly slow at working out and piecing together.
       Among the background stories slowly revealed is his role in having rescued and/or seduced a girl from Iran, Nadia. As with much of his past, it is yet another event shrouded in ambiguity.
       With the odd family dynamics, a touch of international intrigue (Valerie's boyfriend, the wealthy Charlie Richtoven, is mixed up in something, and asks for his advice -- an act of complete desperation), as well as commentary on the international political situation, Mosley offers a rambling take on modern life and civilisation.
       The narrator has his little ready-for-TV spiel, but recognises he can only ride it so far:

I would say -- But humans do not like peace, they are at home in war: they cannot stand happiness, they require resentment and complaint. There was for a time a demand for this sort of thing; but I needed to extend my repertoire if I was not to become a bore.
       He does think this way about the world around him, and especially what he sees on TV (and what is happening in the Middle East), but it doesn't overwhelm the narrative: he's more detatched observer than engaged activist. And he seems more concerned with entertaining -- not being a bore -- than usefully suggesting change and improvement.
       Mosley's narrator is fairly engaging, though he is an odd mix of someone very set in their ways and yet also willing to change his life practically spontaneously. The story drifts quite a bit -- realistically, in how it can be difficult for a pater familias to have a grip on all that's going on with far-flung family members. Still, the lack of sharper contours to the story makes it all eventually seem too unfocussed, his search(es), in dark and light, too various and unspecific.

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Look at the Dark: Reviews: Nicholas Mosley: Other books by Nicholas Mosley under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Nicholas Mosley lived 1923 to 2017.

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