Welcome back to the Design Bridge Book Club. This week it’s the turn of Copywriter Caroline Slade to tell us why we should all read Vikram Seth’s novel in verse…
The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth is a feat of a novel – set in 1980’s San Francisco but more striking for being set entirely in rhyme. I remember being physically unable to stop myself reading this as I walked home from university, tumbling blindly down steep Wellington hills, faster and faster – so carried was I by the story, cajoled along as quickly by the swift rhyming melody as by the hill itself.
The story focuses on John, our protagonist, as he looks for a love for life and a life to love in the long Californian days. It’s always sunny, sometimes warming, but always, always wonderfully written. What makes me want to share this novel with you is its form. Truman Capote once said that you know your story has found the right form when you can imagine it no other way – “only then is it complete, as an orange is complete.” I think this applies to all art.
Seth rhymes with such unlaboured ease. My creative writing tutor once said that rhyme only suited happy subjects – something about joy&rhythm going hand-in-hand etc etc. And, yes, it is difficult to get serious with rhyme. We can too easily end up with trivialising clichés like love and above or language that doesn’t sit naturally with how we actually speak in the 21st Century, (I’m looking at you tomorrow and sorrow). The pop lyric from the dulcet tones of the timeless Des’ree is case and point when she sings, “I don’t want to see a ghost/it’s a sight that I fear most/rather have a piece of toast.” However, Vikram Seth’s incredible lingual might proves all this wrong. Note: the plot, the intricacies of twisting, turning storylines, the pop culture, history, music, and most of all, the very real and profound sense of genuine emotion that bubbles so exquisitely within his rhyming lines.
Here, rhyme is a mode used to comment on the changing pace of our lives, the surprising fit of how one experience shapes the rhythm of another. So read The Golden Gate. It’s one for the readers and the not-so-often readers. It’s rhyme looking for reason. And it will inspire and fire you up with the joys of what we’re capable of creatively when we set a challenge for language (visual or lingual) and pull it in new directions.
Can we tempt you with a second book? Read what Holly had to say about The Great Gatsby.