The Horned Man by James Lasdun

August 20, 2007 at 1:34 am (books, Eloquence)

lasdun_james2.jpg horned-man.jpg I’ve mentioned James Lasdun before, but I’ve just come across a passage I photocopied some time ago from his novel The Horned Man; it compels me to mention him yet again. In my previous post, about thrillers with brains among other topics, I said that I’d had singularly bad luck when recommending this novel. As a rule, people hadn’t liked it; I think very few finished it.

Unfortunate: If they’d at least made it to page 115 of the hardcover edition, they would have encountered the following:

“I had come to realize that I no longer wanted a ‘lover’ or a ‘girlfriend’; that I wanted a wife. I wanted something durable about me–a fortress and a sanctuary. I wanted a women whom I could love–as a character in a book I’d read put it–sincerely, without irony, and without resignation. I had been observing a self-imposed celibacy as I waited for the right woman to come along; partly so as not to be entangled when I met her, but also, more positively, in order to create in myself the state of receptiveness and high sensitization I considered necessary for an auspicious first meeting. I believed that human relations were capable of partaking in a certain mystery; that under the right conditions something larger than the sum of what each individual brought with them, could transfuse itself into the encounter, elevating it and permanently shielding it from the grinding destructiveness of everyday life. And just such a mystery, such a baptism-in-love, was what I felt to be sweetly impending as I stood beside Carol in my room that afternoon.”

When I reviewed The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers, I commented on her Ian McEwan-caliber writing. In my view, the same could be said of Lasdun. The Horned Man is a disturbing novel, but I deeply appreciate being disturbed when it is done in this way, provocatively and profoundly.

And I have to add one more thing: a phrase that leaps out at me from the above passage is “the grinding destructiveness of everyday life.” When I think of the marriages that I have known of, that have fetched up irretrievably on the rocks, victims of just such destructiveness, among other things, I could weep.

And now I think I’ll do some research on Celtic mythology. More on this later… matronae.jpg


  1. Many Worlds, Many Portals II: “Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight.” (J.R.R. Tolkien) « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] 18, 2007 at 3:00 am (Uncategorized) A while back, I ended a post with a reference to Celtic mythology, which had nothing to do with what I’d been writing about. I said I’d get back to the […]

  2. Lawrence Block, sympathetic villains, and Great Books Lists « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] that the Keller novels are not for everyone. I’m put in mind of my relentless espousal of The Horned Man by James Lasdun. This was a book that no one seemed to like but me! Ah well – I also liked Seven Lies by this […]

  3. “Was this it? Was this the catastrophe he had felt preparing itself inside of him?” – It’s Beginning To Hurt: Stories, by James Lasdun « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Ian McEwan, Jasmes Lasdun is a terrific writer. In my post on the Horned Man, I quote this passage: “I had come to realize that I no longer wanted a ‘lover’ or a […]

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