Lydia Millet is "one of the most acclaimed novelists of her generation" (Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times). This stunning novel introduces Susan Lindley, a woman adrift after her husband's death. Suddenly gifted her great uncle's Pasadena mansion, Susan decides to restore his extensive collection of preserved animals, tending to "the fur and feathers, the beaks, the bones and shimmering tails." Meanwhile, a menagerie of uniquely damaged humans - including a cheating husband and a chorus of eccentric elderly women - joins her in residence.
Millet's "flawlessly beautiful" (Salon) prose creates a setting both humorous and wondrous as Susan defends her inheritance from freeloading relatives and explores the mansion's many mysterious spaces. Funny and heartbreaking, Magnificence is the story of a woman emerging from the sudden dissolution of her family. Millet's trademark themes - evolution and extinction, children and parenthood, loss and wonder - produce a rapturous final act to the critically acclaimed cycle of novels that began with How the Dead Dream.
It was a stricken love, but still love. It was the kind of love that gazed up at you from the bare white flood of your headlightsa wide-eyed love with the meekness of grass-eaters. Soft fur, pink tongue, and if you got too close a whiff of mulch on the breath. This was the love she cherished for her husband.
The love had other moments. Of course it did. But its everyday form was vegetarian.
She suspected it was the love of most wives for their husbands, after some time had passed. Not for the newlywedsthat was the nature of the conditionbut for the seasoned, the ones who had seniority. When she thought of conjugal love she saw a field of husbands stretched out in front of hera broad, wide field. Possibly a rice paddy. They were bent over, hoeing. Did you hoe rice? Well, whatever. The way she saw them, the husbands had a Chinese thing going on. They toiled like billions of peasants.
Technically, historically, and at this very moment in most of the...
Magnificence is, like much of her work, aware of the issues close to the author’s heart - environmental degradation, extinction of languages and cultures, the decline of biodiversity - but anyone who’d call it, or any of her novels, “activist” is missing exactly what makes them anathema to that kind of writing: Millet’s fierce loyalty to character. Magnificence is painfully, wincingly, hilariously human.
(Reviewed by Morgan Macgregor).
Full Review (1070 words).
Even if the book might not quite be about them, Magnificence, like much of Millet's fiction, features animals prominently. When asked about her use of animals in her novels, Millet said, in an interview with Bookforum:
"We lose the subject of animals when we move out of childhood. In childhood animals are all around us, and then we throw them out. In childhood they're everywhere, the stuff of our stories and our art and our songs, of our clothes and blankets, of toys and games. Then in adulthood they're distant symbols or objects. They're rudely ejected from our domain. They're frivolous or infantile, suddenly. They're what we eat or maybe pets. Sometimes they're what we kill. But this makes no sense. This impoverishes our imaginations. ...
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