First star for the disappointment. Second - for the use of the language, the cadence of sentences, and the use of punctuation, semicolon in particular. I think I'll start showing fragments of Nighwood
to my students, who mostly only believe in commas, to show them how punctuation adds clarity and tension.
He was usually seen walking or driving alone, dressed as if expecting to participate in some great event, though there was no function in the world for which he could be said to be properly garbed; wishing to be correct at any moment, he was tailored in part for the evening and in part for the day.
Consider this gem, an extract form the first chapter:
Three massive pianos (Hedvig had played the waltzes of her time with the masterly stroke of a man, in the tempo of her blood, rapid and rising - that quick mannerliness of touch associated with the playing of the Viennese, who, though pricked with the love of rhythm, execute its demands in the duelling manner) sprawled over the thick dragon's-blood pile of rugs from Madrid. The study harboured two rambling desks in rich and bloody wood. Hedvig had liked things in twos and threes. Into the middle arch of each desk silver-headed brads had been hammered to form a lion, a bear, a ram, a dove and in their midst a flaming torch. The design was executed under the supervision of Guido who, thinking on the instant, claimed it as the Volkbein field, though it turned out to be a bit of heraldry long since in decline beneath the papal frown. The full length windows (a French touch that Guido thought handsome) overlooking the park were curtained in native velvets and stuffs from Tunis and the Venetian blinds were of that peculiarly sombre shade of red so loved by the Austrians. Against the panels of oak that reared themselves above the long table and up to the curving ceiling hung life-sized portraits of Guido's claim to father and mother. The lady was a sumptuous Florentine with bright sly eyes and overt mouth. Great puffed and pearled sleeves rose to the pricked-eared pointings of the stiff lace about the head, conical and braided. The deep accumulation of dress fell about her in groined shadows, the train, rambling through a vista of primitive trees, was carpet-thick. She seemed to be expecting a bird.
Before long, however, it degenerates into this:
'Love is death, come upon with passion; I know that is why love is wisdom.I love her as one condemned to it.'
'Oh, Widow Lazarus! Arisen from your dead! Oh, lunatic humour of the moon! Behold this fearful tree, on which sits singing the drearful bird – Turdus musicus‚ or European singing thrush; sitting and singing the refrain-all in the tear-wet night — and it starts out large, but it ends like I Hear You Calling Me, or Kiss Me Again, gone wild...."
Modernist preoccupations with social classes, appearances, outsiders, loneliness rendered in Belle Epoque language do not work: formal aspects of modernism I so loved in, say, Wide Sargasso Sea
, irritate me here; the language - though I loved and still respect Wilde, Huysmans, and (later) Firbank - is pointlessly excessive. I forced myself to finish this book. Started and finished thanks to 2015: The Year of Reading Women: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/152644-2015-the-year-of-reading-women