Category: Benjamin Markovits

book of books – Imposture


Most of the time the books I read have been written by people who have been six feet under for quite a while. Part of the reason is that there is some comfort knowing that a book has stood the test of time and been deemed a ‘classic’ by plenty of people. The other reason is that most of the modern stuff just doesn’t grab you in the same way. This book ironically is written as if it was something produced in the last century.

Benjamin Markovits starts using a literary device that sets it up and established the theme of imposture. There is nothing wrong with that but the problem throughout this book is that it is hard to ever really care about the main character. Not only is he pretending to be some one else but also he is pretending to be someone clearly more confident.

Plot summary
A young doctor who is drifting through life with no purpose is given the chance to become Lord Byron’s travel companion as the poet escapes his creditors and a divorced wife and heads to the continent. During the trip the famous incident with Mary and Percy Shelly, which gave birth to Frankenstein is covered but is the doctor John Polidori who writes The Vampyre. Things start with the book, which is mistaken for the work of Byron, and as he waits to complain to the publisher a young woman, who herself pretends to have met Byron before meets him and manages to get his address out of him. She then sets her sights on being seduced by him and in the end after Polidori reveals how he burnt his bridge with Byron, who made him feel inadequate and then seduced his sister. And runs up some debts the truth is finally revealed. Polidori takes his own life as things fall apart around him. He loved his sister, and not necessarily it is hinted in a purely platonic way, he dreamt of being a writer and he wanted to be loved. Byron did all of those things better than him and in the end he could not live in the shadow of the man he had pretended to be.

Is it well written?
It is a little bit like – male scene then female scene alternatively – until they intertwine and then it ends with the conclusion, which makes it a bit like reading a movie. The problem is that Polidori is a disturbed pathetic man struggling to get over his guilt of letting down his father, sister and Byron as well as finding out what his real purpose is in life. He fails at everything and seems to only succeed when he pretends to be Byron, which in the end makes him even more miserable. You get the point before the end and there are moments where you feel it is put on a bit thick. Plus having introduced a literary device where an old English teacher shares his writings there is not reference back. The style is almost nineteenth century but at the same time clearly written in much more modern times. The theme works but the only criticism would have been to maybe take the foot off the failure pedal at some points and make Polidori slightly more likeable and as a result the story would probably have been even more tragic.

Should it be read?
Hard one to answer that because there is no particularly compelling reason you should. But I suspect that is purely because of my prejudice against modern literature. What would I necessarily pick up anything – recommendation on another blog might help but it’s a minefield. In fairness if this is read then it is a well-written story and certainly a story that has been well researched and will not leave you with any unanswered questions. A quick check on Wikipedia indicates that most of the story was built around the true story of Polidori.

Summary
Pretending to be someone else might get you a bit of money and female attention but when the truth comes out sadly an overdose is the only ending possible

Version read – Faber & Faber paperback

book of books – Imposture


Most of the time the books I read have been written by people who have been six feet under for quite a while. Part of the reason is that there is some comfort knowing that a book has stood the test of time and been deemed a ‘classic’ by plenty of people. The other reason is that most of the modern stuff just doesn’t grab you in the same way. This book ironically is written as if it was something produced in the last century.

Benjamin Markovits starts using a literary device that sets it up and established the theme of imposture. There is nothing wrong with that but the problem throughout this book is that it is hard to ever really care about the main character. Not only is he pretending to be some one else but also he is pretending to be someone clearly more confident.

Plot summary
A young doctor who is drifting through life with no purpose is given the chance to become Lord Byron’s travel companion as the poet escapes his creditors and a divorced wife and heads to the continent. During the trip the famous incident with Mary and Percy Shelly, which gave birth to Frankenstein is covered but is the doctor John Polidori who writes The Vampyre. Things start with the book, which is mistaken for the work of Byron, and as he waits to complain to the publisher a young woman, who herself pretends to have met Byron before meets him and manages to get his address out of him. She then sets her sights on being seduced by him and in the end after Polidori reveals how he burnt his bridge with Byron, who made him feel inadequate and then seduced his sister. And runs up some debts the truth is finally revealed. Polidori takes his own life as things fall apart around him. He loved his sister, and not necessarily it is hinted in a purely platonic way, he dreamt of being a writer and he wanted to be loved. Byron did all of those things better than him and in the end he could not live in the shadow of the man he had pretended to be.

Is it well written?
It is a little bit like – male scene then female scene alternatively – until they intertwine and then it ends with the conclusion, which makes it a bit like reading a movie. The problem is that Polidori is a disturbed pathetic man struggling to get over his guilt of letting down his father, sister and Byron as well as finding out what his real purpose is in life. He fails at everything and seems to only succeed when he pretends to be Byron, which in the end makes him even more miserable. You get the point before the end and there are moments where you feel it is put on a bit thick. Plus having introduced a literary device where an old English teacher shares his writings there is not reference back. The style is almost nineteenth century but at the same time clearly written in much more modern times. The theme works but the only criticism would have been to maybe take the foot off the failure pedal at some points and make Polidori slightly more likeable and as a result the story would probably have been even more tragic.

Should it be read?
Hard one to answer that because there is no particularly compelling reason you should. But I suspect that is purely because of my prejudice against modern literature. What would I necessarily pick up anything – recommendation on another blog might help but it’s a minefield. In fairness if this is read then it is a well-written story and certainly a story that has been well researched and will not leave you with any unanswered questions. A quick check on Wikipedia indicates that most of the story was built around the true story of Polidori.

Summary
Pretending to be someone else might get you a bit of money and female attention but when the truth comes out sadly an overdose is the only ending possible

Version read – Faber & Faber paperback

Holiday read: Imposture – post VI

Well the holiday finished a few days ago and now so does this book. There are some things that I want to say about it which will be kept for the review that will come in a couple of days. But things end with Polidori becoming the metaphorical vampire feeding off misery, failure and death. Victims he has known include primarily himself, his sister, Eliza and Byron.

Highlights from chapters sixteen to eighteen

* Polidori is now becoming reckless and more details of the past are filled in and he receives a message from Eliza suggesting they spend a night together and he goes to a money lender to get the funds to then take up her offer

* Dressed as a page boy she arrives and they head down in the coach to Brighton and most of the way there Polidori contemplates telling her who he is but decides to tell the story of Polidori from Byron’s point of view

* Having filled Eliza in on his behaviour, which included seducing Polidori’s sister, the young girl is distraught but having gone so far decides to forgive the Lord and go the final step which is soon on them in the hotel room

* After the act is completed he reveals who he really is and Eliza is distraught that her dream world has crumbled around her and he leaves her surrounded by some of the money he has left and heads home

* Once back at his father’s house he retires to bed and refuses to come out even when his sister and father ask him to come down to dinner and give up his bed for his nephew to have a sleep in the room

* At that point Polidori is sipping some poison and taking a step that Byron might have contemplated but never had the guts to make  – suicide – and he muses on the regrets he has had and the misery he leaves behind

A full review will come in a couple of days…

Holiday read: Imposture – post VI

Well the holiday finished a few days ago and now so does this book. There are some things that I want to say about it which will be kept for the review that will come in a couple of days. But things end with Polidori becoming the metaphorical vampire feeding off misery, failure and death. Victims he has known include primarily himself, his sister, Eliza and Byron.

Highlights from chapters sixteen to eighteen

* Polidori is now becoming reckless and more details of the past are filled in and he receives a message from Eliza suggesting they spend a night together and he goes to a money lender to get the funds to then take up her offer

* Dressed as a page boy she arrives and they head down in the coach to Brighton and most of the way there Polidori contemplates telling her who he is but decides to tell the story of Polidori from Byron’s point of view

* Having filled Eliza in on his behaviour, which included seducing Polidori’s sister, the young girl is distraught but having gone so far decides to forgive the Lord and go the final step which is soon on them in the hotel room

* After the act is completed he reveals who he really is and Eliza is distraught that her dream world has crumbled around her and he leaves her surrounded by some of the money he has left and heads home

* Once back at his father’s house he retires to bed and refuses to come out even when his sister and father ask him to come down to dinner and give up his bed for his nephew to have a sleep in the room

* At that point Polidori is sipping some poison and taking a step that Byron might have contemplated but never had the guts to make  – suicide – and he muses on the regrets he has had and the misery he leaves behind

A full review will come in a couple of days…

Holiday read: Imposture – post V

Despite the mounting risk of being unmasked as a pretender Polidori cannot avoid the temptation to pretend to be Byron not just to Eliza but also her father. You just know that this is going to end with one of those scenes where the words “betrayed trust” is used at least more than once.

There is a bit where the last days of Polidori’s employment with Byron are covered and it’s hard not to side with the poet and agree that this over sensitive rather self obsessed failed doctor has served his purpose. This book is more about the off stage characters and those in the shadows of the famous and while that is great you do rather long for some more Byron.

Highlights from chapters eleven to fifteen

* Polidori goes out to meet Eliza and her father and pretends to be Byron for the afternoon chatting away to the romantic novelist and impressing his daughter who rewards him at the end with a kiss

* He then heads for home where his sister has arrived back from Milan with her son William, a dead ringer for Byron, and although the details are not made cleared enough is sketched out to imply that she was seduced by the poet and produced his child damaging her marriage beyond repair

* Upset and angry about the way his family has been damaged by Byron, who he continued to be in awe of even after he had been sacked, he heads for the publisher’s with the idea of telling the story of how a brother’s and sister’s relationship was destroyed

* At the publisher’s club he starts to sound out the idea of the book but then gets involved with gambling and before he knows it he is in the grip of the game and borrowing money from Colburn to play and loses everything

* Meanwhile following his meeting with ‘Byron’ Eliza’s father can’t resist telling his other daughter who recognises that this is an impostor and tries to get her sister away from her but that only makes Eliza more determined

More tomorrow…

Holiday read: Imposture – post V

Despite the mounting risk of being unmasked as a pretender Polidori cannot avoid the temptation to pretend to be Byron not just to Eliza but also her father. You just know that this is going to end with one of those scenes where the words “betrayed trust” is used at least more than once.

There is a bit where the last days of Polidori’s employment with Byron are covered and it’s hard not to side with the poet and agree that this over sensitive rather self obsessed failed doctor has served his purpose. This book is more about the off stage characters and those in the shadows of the famous and while that is great you do rather long for some more Byron.

Highlights from chapters eleven to fifteen

* Polidori goes out to meet Eliza and her father and pretends to be Byron for the afternoon chatting away to the romantic novelist and impressing his daughter who rewards him at the end with a kiss

* He then heads for home where his sister has arrived back from Milan with her son William, a dead ringer for Byron, and although the details are not made cleared enough is sketched out to imply that she was seduced by the poet and produced his child damaging her marriage beyond repair

* Upset and angry about the way his family has been damaged by Byron, who he continued to be in awe of even after he had been sacked, he heads for the publisher’s with the idea of telling the story of how a brother’s and sister’s relationship was destroyed

* At the publisher’s club he starts to sound out the idea of the book but then gets involved with gambling and before he knows it he is in the grip of the game and borrowing money from Colburn to play and loses everything

* Meanwhile following his meeting with ‘Byron’ Eliza’s father can’t resist telling his other daughter who recognises that this is an impostor and tries to get her sister away from her but that only makes Eliza more determined

More tomorrow…

Holiday read – The Imposture post IV

Well the wheels have finally come off and it has not been possible to read more than a chapter and a bit today because it is our last full day of holiday as we get ready to head back on a drive that will be split with an overnight stop in France somewhere yet to be decided. All that could be managed before we headed back for one last look down on the Grindelwald valley is chapter ten.

Highlights of chapter ten and the first bit of eleven

* Polidori starts to write his travel journal putting Byron at the centre but there is a problem because although he is clearly in awe of the poet his awe has turned to jealously and he gets easily annoyed and slighted by Byron and the Shelley’s who they meet up with

* On a rainy week in Switzerland they set themselves the task of writing ghost stories – the famous episode that gave birth to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – and Polidori is blank for ideas until Byron hands him a story to start with about a Vampire

* But throughout the period Polidori cannot help to be both angry then desperate for affirmation from the poet and at one point is even considering suicide until Byron comes into his room and apologies to him

Maybe more tomorrow but it might be difficult…