A writer’s literary obsession leads him to discover that Victorian England might be a fine place to visit, but he couldn’t live there.
Clark (Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces, 2008, etc.) turns inward with a hit-and-miss memoir of his “Victoromania.” The author has read more than 100 Victorian novels, many of which are now forgotten. He immersed himself in the art, architecture, philosophy, culture, and religious issues of the era. He traveled to England frequently, staying there once for as long as five months. Earlier, Clark experienced a painful divorce, though he reveals little about it or the marriage preceding it. He believed he could have better luck with online dating in England, and while he met a number of women who shared his interest in the Victorians, nothing came of those meetings. He apparently had the means to travel at will at least in part due to the death of his father after a divorce from his mother, who later divorced his stepfather as well. “I have been a beneficiary; on a small scale when I was younger and on a larger scale as I’ve gotten older, as my elders died off and their wills were read,” he writes. He continues, “I can write what I want without much interruption beyond the teaching I like to do….I worry about what I say, how I say it, and whether it will attract some readers, but not much about getting paid.” There is some purity in this confessional endeavor, and, as Clark freely acknowledges, narcissism. His immersion in the Victorians informs his diffuse reflections on his own writing, his religious conversion, his losses, and, ultimately, his emergence from the fog of that obsession. “That my interest in the Victorians is now no larger than any other interest of mine is, in retrospect, not surprising,” he writes, “though at the time it seemed a very sudden alteration….The Victorians and I were friends, but no more than that.”
A hodgepodge memoir in which the author experiences the full range of obsession.