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The Golden Gate (1986)

by Vikram Seth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2853410,306 (4.08)57
The Golden Gate is a brilliantly achieved novel written in verse. Set in the 1980s in the affluence and sunshine of California's Silicon Valley, it is an exuberant and witty story of twenty-somethings looking for love, pleasure and the meaning of life. It was awarded the 1986 British Airways Commonwealth Poetry Prize.… (more)



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» See also 57 mentions

English (33)  Dutch (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
When I stop crying I'll review this.

PS: I'm not going to stop crying. On reflection this fact is the review.

PPS: I'm so grateful to have been given this book. ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
I picked this book up from a Little Free Library, based on a vague sense that Seth was a writer people said nice things about so I might want to read it. I flicked through and saw that it was all in verse and thought there was no way this could be good. Oh, how wrong I was.

The book tells a few small stories, of the relationships between yuppies in the Bay Area back when home computers were a novelty and the big business were tied to the defence industry. It tells these stories with astonishing beauty; enough that I cried at the end, over the fate of a character who 150 pages earlier I'd decided I disliked and was the author of most of his misfortunes. That's a strength of the book in general: every character is deeply flawed, but the book holds them all with enough compassion that I still cared what happened to them.

And yes, it's all in verse. Sonnets. Onegin stanzas- intricate rhyming scheme and all. 14 chapters of them, the titles of which themselves make the table of contents into a sonnet that summarises the story. While there are moments at which the brilliance of the craft distracts from the story, they are very few, and the form actually serves the book very well, driving it with a pace and lightness of touch that had me read the book in a week and want to start over again immediately. ( )
  eldang | Aug 11, 2019 |
I did not find real depth of thought or anything shocking in its content. Rewrite it in prose and it will be a fairly honest memoir of the 80's in Frisco (which is a fairly wild guess for me, who has never sailed to that part of the globe). But the style of the composition is so amusing, and the verses are so well-written in their exotic Onegin-metrics (sounding so familiar to the Russian ear), that it becomes a gem of easy reading. I read it aloud to my wife.

Probably there is a certain kind of symbolism in this choice of metre. Something like "Russians love their children too" - a song of the same era and in the same vein, if I am not mistaken. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
Oh my god this book is eating my brain. See the sonnet I wrote about it http://suppertimesonnets.blogspot.com/2009/09/in-which-vikram-seth-makes-me-feel... ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
With an otherwise ordinary plot, this novel in verse is full of little delights from its vocabulary to its satire of yuppies to its fourth-wall breaking. Even in usual novels, the appearance of fantastic words such as petrissage or fianchetto, or the all encompassing setence jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz, or cute homophonic puns birds and orchids (birds and/or kids), would be delectable, but in a metred verse, it is doubly so. The scathing commentary on love's dumbing effects or art or just yuppiedom in general had me chuckling or despairing at its relevance thirty years on - speaking of which, I appreciated Jan noticing and policing the casual sexism that pours forth continuously from John who is undeniably the worst character, sexist, homophobic, uncompromising in relationships, cowardly, the list of his defects goes on.

The narrator-poet's tendency to break the fourth wall were silly pleasures, with his magnanimous recount of the two sides of Phil and Claire's separation, or his literary version of a screen coyly fading to black as a couple is about to kiss or more, or his meta-description of his real-life experience of describing the novel while acknowledging the Onegin/Pushkin influence. With a gimmicky premise - a novel in verse, the metre was constricting in a positive way, slowing an otherwise rushed reader, preventing surface reading, making every syllable compulsory, and it was used most effectively for conversations, emphasising the ebb and flow and interruptions of speech. Warning: after a few hundred pages of rhythmic reading - wiggling my toe in beat while mouthing the words helped my reading of the novel -, you'll find it difficult to read normal prose for a while. ( )
1 vote kitzyl | Mar 8, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seth, Vikramprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hout, Paul van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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So here they are, the chapters ready,

And, half against my will, I'm free

Of this warm enterprise, this heady

Labor that has exhausted me

Through thirteen months, swight and delightful,

Incited by my friends' insightful

Paring and prodding and appeal.

I pray the gentle hands of Steele

Will once again sift through its pages.

If anything is this should grate,

Ascribe it to its natal state;

If anything in this engages

By verse, veracity, or wim,

You know whom I must credit, Tim.
First words
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To make a start more swift than weighty,

Hail Muse.
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