This book is another oldie; a real oldie. I’ve really been into reading a lot of old books lately. It’s just something about the dramatic, and poetic language of past generations of writers that I really appreciate. The way they say and describe things can be very refreshing for readers nowadays. The funny thing about this one however is how relevant it remains to life today. It’s crazy to some degree. Written by Marie Corelli back in 1895, this book touches on a number of topics that people of today will find readily relatable.
The language of this book is primarily descriptive. Choosing rather to describe situations more than explain them. That distinction may seem arbitrary to some but it changes the way the book reads. It also lends a sort of naivety to the narrator Geoffrey Tempest. Instead of saying how people feel or exactly what happens, the writer has the narrator stick closer to directly telling you what he experiences. I know that this is indicative of a certain form of narrating but I really don’t need the proper nomenclature to explain what I mean. This style of narration leads to some powerful descriptives, giving the characters a very mysterious yet full personality. In particular, the narrator’s descriptions of Lucio, the character who serves to be the driving force behind the story, are captivating. Lucio Rimanez is the incarnate of Satan with quite the extraordinary affliction. In this book, Satan is a complex soul with numerous strange yet paradoxically singular motives. For Geoffrey Tempest he is awesome in every facet for the majority of the book as he acts as an awkward social benefactor and tour guide for Tempest as he explores life with his new found wealth and fame.
The Sorrows of Satan is truly before its time in many respects. One of which being that it was one of the very first best sellers in the modern day sense. It enjoyed a great deal of commercial success and so far as I have read, it also received tremendous critical ridicule in its time. For a book written in 1895 to have so many present day parallels is astounding.
For one it deals with the situation of the publishing business which according to the book has changed very little in over a hundred years. When Tempest wishes to publish his book, Lucio explains to him and correctly predicts the way the book will be received given the manner in which he chooses to publish it. Tempest is wealthy and wants his book to be a best seller. But he had aspired to being a famous writer before he became wealthy. Lucio tells him that if he wishes to truly be thought of as a serious writer and have his book judged on its merits as a work of literature alone then he must publish it without using his influence. This doesn’t work for Tempest and so he publishes his book with his famous name and the force of his powerful wealth behind the title. The book is a success to some degree but it becomes obvious to him that it was his name the critics and literati appreciated and not his work. Another author, Mavis Claire on the other hand lives a modest lifestyle out in the country and is celebrated as a truly best-selling author. Her list of works are all popular with the people and she enjoys a privileged position in the world of popular literature. People truly enjoy her works for their merit. This angers Tempest greatly as he sees that no matter how many critics he bribes and no matter how many marketing strategies the publishers use to promote his book it will never measure up to Mavis’ in either sells or popularity. In reading this I thought about the present state of the publishing industry and noticed how the same dichotomy exists. There are popular books that people absolutely love which sell at tremendous numbers and then there are those books that are pure marketing. Sure there exists a space in between those two poles. Some books garner honest acclaim from critics while never achieving huge sales; especially in their time. However that dichotomy between popular literature and the marketing machine of publishers still pervades the landscape of literature. And if anything, the internet has helped that dichotomy to grow. The one good thing about the internet in this situation however is that it also allows writers who may receive neither critical acclaim nor popular appeal to manage a living as writers by just putting out good writing for a particular set of fans who can relate to their work.
Mavis’s character is also interesting for other reasons. She serves not only as a rival for Tempest in his literary pursuits but she also seems to be that purer person that Satan, Lucio, is searching for. She is the only person that I remember outwardly saying that Satan must be suffering. And for this Lucio seems to soften to her or at least have some affinity for her. Mavis is also a modern woman. And this theme of modern women is a major theme in the story. Mavis has her own merits as a woman and a freedom in her character as a person while the woman who Tempest pursues at first is cold and rigid, trapped in the ways of a proper woman who marries for position. She never loves Tempest and he knows as much but in following with society she easily accepts his offer of marriage. The irony is that Tempest shows a sincere disdain for the modern woman while openly finding himself fascinated by the embodiment of it in the story, Mavis Claire.
Marie Corelli also bashes the upper class in this title. He makes their lives seem so hollow and to a point; utterly pointless. He writes of life in his period as one of loose morals and no honor; where everyone can be had for a price. In his England, money is the god that blesses its owner with a cloak of betterment that magically improves their social standing. He depicts the noble class as having no nobility whatsoever and he unabashedly slanders the practices of high society.
Another thing that Tempest mentions that made me howl when I read it was the worthlessness of a university degree. Definitely a modern issue. LOL. I can attest to that.
Point blank. This is an awesome book. It’s a great oldie with poetic descriptions and an engrossing plot. It would be an exciting read for anyone. The Sorrows of Satan is a look back at a past that shares so many similarities with the present and puts them on full display as you follow Satan’s judgement of the character of that age. Anyone who aspires to become a writer should seriously consider giving it a read. And anyone who likes good narratives in general should do the same.