Stranger, and better, than fiction: The Quest...
might appear to be casually conceived (man reads book, man falls in love; man reads book's author's letters, man gets both fascinated and appalled; man decides to write author's biography
) and casually written, but at least the latter is not true. Symons, who only takes shape as a character-writer at the very beginning and end of his book, ensures the pacing, timing, findings, sources, and even a mysterious benefactor appear at just the right moments in this seemingly nonchalantly crafted story to keep us interested. He also makes discreet, but masterly use of the fashionable modernist techniques; the amateur-detective fiction frame known from The Great Gatsby
, for instance; fragmented and conflicting point of view; variety of voices.
The books works so fantastically well, in spite of its rather simple premise (find out as much as possible about author; write letters letters letters; reprint received letters letters letters
), because of its peculiar subject. The tormented, multitalented, paranoid Frederick Rolfe, a man with an infallible and elaborate self-sabotage mechanism, makes my pet miserable author - [a:Jean Rhys|25022|Jean Rhys|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1240501946p2/25022.jpg] - look like a fully functional, successful person. Highly recommended.