- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 18, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679734570
- ISBN-13: 978-0679734574
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $4.24 shipping
The Golden Gate Paperback – June 18, 1991
$0.83 extra savings coupon applied at checkout.
Sorry. You are not eligible for this coupon.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
"At once a bittersweet love story, a wickedly funny novel of manners and an unsentimental meditation on mortality and the nuclear abyss. Always witty--and still profound--the book paints a truthful picture of our dreadful, comic times."
"A splendid achievement, equally convincing in its exhilaration and its sadness."
--The New York Times
"The great California novel has been written in verse (and why not?): The Golden Gate gives great joy."
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I stayed up late and found it to be anything but terse.
His style of writing, quite exciting, kept me in my seat.
I found myself begin reciting to his funky beat.
While not all styles of poetry are easily construed,
his fluid verbal mastery was elegantly brewed.
I knew I'd write, with keen insight, my thoughts in metered rhyme;
although this isn't what he'd want, it's all I could opine.
His story opens with the tale
of John, a lonely single male,
who's risen in the rank and file
but pines for one to walk the aisle.
His empty life seems filled with strife,
compelling him to find a wife.
Now here comes Janet, once an ex,
now just a friend (they don't have sex).
She helps him rise above the fray
with sage support and, by the way,
suggests he posts his personal,
through which comes Liz, quite capable
of keeping John from all that's dull
and end his heart's persistent lull.
Romance is lit, so now we flit
to others in our growing skit
of friends, lovers, sons and mothers,
activists and nuclear druthers.
All the while, the humor builds,
injected by the writer's skills,
not to distract from all the glory
of this now climactic story,
but rather to have fun with style
and maybe just to make you smile.
Through all the threads that Seth does weave,
a tangled web of lives do cleave
when, one by one, with damage done,
our lovers break up; tears do run.
The bigger picture that he paints
will make you see the many saints
that linger in our lives each day
but ne'er we thank them, ne'er we say
"I love you," until death may stray
onto their path. They go away
and leave you crying as you pray
for one more chance, just one more way,
to hold them, touch them, make them stay...
In my conclusion, I will say
this gets five stars, without delay.
Through Golden Gates do souls depart.
In San Francisco lays my heart.
Seth is now my favorite author and I'm always trying to get people to give his novels a chance. I feel that Seth is an underdiscovered author and nothing would make me happier than sharing the discovery of his amazing talent with others.
The poet James Merrill, in his epic trilogy "The Changing Light at Sandover" has claimed that "forms what affirms". Does this mean that the satisfaction of the novel can only come if the line-breaks are reliably marginal? Linguists Whorf and Sapir have suggested that language constrains our thought - not so much in the realm of vocabulary as, again, in that of form. The radically different forms of, for instance, Hopi or Inuit constrain "what is relatively easy to say" and hence, what is said. Perhaps so. You'd expect that rhyming sonnets would constrain the voice of a novelist, but Vikram Seth has certainly shown here that is not necessarily the case. Chalk it up to a mastery of both form and story, though, not to versification. His technical skills extend to both realms.
Moving, then, beyond form, we wonder about content of such a novel. Will the book wander (or waltz) into the deeply allegorical, the disconnected, the imagistic? After all, aren't those the consequences of poetic license? Have you read your Ashbery? Oddly, this poem is quite prosaic in that regard, it tells a tight, comprehensible story in a manner that is fluid but not embroidered. (By way of contrast, consider that you can easily find yourself spinning away in a vortex of magical metaphor in the latest Rushdie.) Novels, it would seem, are pretty much what we make of them. As one who has never really appreciated the modernist redesign of the novel, I found "The Golden Gate" to be a much more satisfying story - notwithstanding its several-hundred sonnets.
The book is a well-textured story about a number of folks living their lives and relationships - apparently in the 80's. (Some reviewers have made much of the story's use of timestamped phraseology such as the use of "yuppie" and the like. Perhaps. But I'd imagine that the term "Okie" was equally a well-understood, sometimes overloaded, term of the 30's which we, nevertheless, can comfortably accept from Steinbeck.) The lives, loves and trials of these folks are presented with the careful painting and pacing of Anne Tyler and J. R. Lennon.
Seth's verse in this book has been called "masterful". It is, indeed. Consider that the odd rhyme is hardly ever at hand for most of us, much less available when called upon, as he was, thousands of times. But Seth is more than a rhymer - something I noticed by contrast. I'm pretty sure the sonnet scheme he uses is the so-called "Pushkin rhyme." I only know this since I just struggled through a marginal translation of "Eugene Onegin" and noticed the similarity. But the sing-songy'ness of the Pushkin was gladly lacking in the Seth. He uses true poetic craft, line breaks and punctuation and word choice, to allow the reader to flow between a fluid, songlike verse and a more prosaic tale-telling. In other words, he uses the strengths of both forms when they serve, best, the needs of the work and the reader.
So. Don't be afraid of the form. But also don't expect it to seem natural unless you have seen it before. I came to this book via a recommendation of Tom Disch in his essays in "The Castle of Indolence" (a 5-star plug there), and from a background in having sought out and read quite a number of long poems, epic poems and verse novels.
If you taste this book more out of curiosity than experience, good for you! But grant yourself the time to bounce through the first dozen sonnets in the singy-songy phrasing that so many of us learned to be necessarily poetic many years ago. Then, as the story captures you, you will notice that the verse, with the help of Seth's subtle crafting, both lifts and disappears beneath the story. I'll read it again, and again.
I have not completed it. It does seem to have bits of "Tales of the CIty" interposed.
On the whole, I find it enjoyable: Good, but not great.
Most recent customer reviews
A year ago in fair Eugene
(Many narrative poems start this way
With unabashed mise en scene)
I wandered to the Bookstore...Read more