Thursday, March 4, 1999

The Horse's Mouth

by Joyce Cary

The third part of a trilogy I remain ignorant of.  It’s the story of Gulley Jimson, an artist whose first drawings – of his wife at her bath – are valuable masterworks, but who now at sixty-seven lives in poverty creating vast, fantastic Biblical visions on walls.  He narrates the story, and his prose is steeped in realistically evoked artistic vision as he catches sight of ideas in nature and throws himself almost involuntarily into his work.  The conversation is realistic: staccato and slang-packed.  There are some rich moments of dark comedy here, but on the whole, as a slice of life novel it grows rather boring over 370 pages: Jimson paints with an obsessive vigor.  Jimson avoids creditors.  Jimson steals money.  Jimson interacts with and ruminates endlessly about the women in his life.  Although skillfully written, this would have made a much better, slicker short novel.

three stars

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