The Golden Gate

Seth, Vikram

Published by Random House, 1986
ISBN 10: 0394549740 / ISBN 13: 9780394549743
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the uncorrected first state proof in wrappers. 307 pp. together with the second state proof also 307 pp. type on spine differs. a fine set. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: 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.

Review: Can 690 sonnets, rhyming a-b-a-b-c-c-d-d-e-f-f-e-g-g, be a novel? Definitely! First published in 1986 and still fresh (the sole sign of its publication date being the frequent use of the word yuppie), Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate will turn the verse-fearing into admiring acolytes. Janet Hayakawa, a yet-to-be-discovered sculptor and drummer in the Liquid Sheep, secretly places a personal ad for her friend John, even though she too is single. "Only her cats provide distraction,/Twin paradigms of lazy action." The seventh letter does the trick. Lawyer Liz Donati's submission is two sonnets in toto and disarms John into meeting her. Soon they fall into brief bliss, as do her brother, Ed, and John's old college roommate, Phil. Unfortunately, the first couple's love is too soon destroyed, partly by a pet, partly by politics; and the second is rent by religion. Ed pulls away thanks to the Bible: "I have to trust my faith's decisions, / Not batten on my own volitions."

The rest of the novel leads less to the traditional comic ending--rapprochement and marriage all around--than to surprising sadness. But in between there is wit, wordplay, abounding allusion, and some marvelous animals, among them the iguana Schwarzenegger. The author even steps onto the stage on occasion: at a frou-frou publishing party a powerful editor accosts him, curious to hear about his new novel. When Seth tells him it's in verse, the temperature plummets. "'How marvelously quaint,' he said, / And subsequently cut me dead." Luckily, Seth's real editor did anything but.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Golden Gate
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 1986
Binding: Softbound
Edition: First.

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