The unsavoury behaviour of men reverberates through Lasdun’s Victory, which comprises two mesmeric, stand-alone stories. In Feathered Glory, the quiet and contented family life of Richard, an elementary school principal in upstate New York, is disrupted by the reappearance of a former lover...
These are impressive stories, containing beautiful descriptions and subtle twists.
Victory contains two novellas... Together they make a convincing case for James Lasdun as one of the most incisive investigators of the human heart writing in English today... It’s a subtle, well-judged story about restraint, rapture and regret... Lasdun doesn’t put a foot wrong in either story: both are suspenseful and truthful, familiar in their subject matter but audacious in their conclusions. If future scholars want to know what the hell was going on with sex and power at this moment in history, Victory won’t be a bad place to start.
Whatever the reasons for Lasdun’s neglect, his latest work, Victory, should help redress it. The volume consists of a pair of novellas, both of which portray men behaving badly. In terms of plot, the two have marked similarities: both involve a close male friendship; both feature a character whose life is upended by the re-emergence of a figure from his past; and both have avian themes... As a man, reading these two novellas in tandem doesn’t make one feel proud of one’s sex. But they are stories that ought to be read — not just for their insights into “toxic masculinity”, but for what they tell us about ways in which men think.
James Lasdun is my favourite ‘should be famous’ writer, his work extraordinarily taut and compelling. His eye-boggling psychological thrillers are understated, yet perspicacious and hilarious... Lasdun expertly demonstrates how inner moral structure is often built on the scaffolding of tenuous and arbitrary rules and self-justification... The narrator expresses my own feelings when he says that fictional depictions of this dilemma aren’t interesting... And yet this story is enthralling. The conversations and events ring true; the characters are believable.
In an age of loud invective and binary solutions, there is something wonderful about Lasdun’s scrupulous recording of doubts and uncertainty. I like his unapologetic literariness and the unexpected way his books draw strength from artefacts of high culture. In Give Me Everything You Have, the Middle English poem “Gawain and the Green Knight” became a tool for thinking about the obligations of male decency. In a similar way, the Mallarmé poem from which Lasdun borrows the title of the novella is used to evokes contradictory facets of male sexuality.
despite the obvious contrast, the novellas are united by Lasdun’s signature virtues: a forensic attention to psychological detail, a mastery of dialogue and an all-round fluency that gives his prose a compelling swiftness. It is these virtues, more than the plots, that make Victory a triumph.