Arcadia - Tom Stoppard

Last week we went on holiday, and stayed in a Georgian house in Hampton Court Palace. It was awesome, but that's besides the point. The house came with some books, among them Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. A friend likes to quote obscure-sounding Stoppard from his amdram days, but I knew little about Mr. Stoppard's work, so a read seemed in order.

Arcadia is set in a Georgian country house (hence it being chosen for the bookshelf, I guess), in two time periods, in the modern day and 200 years ago. I'm sure reading a play is not the best way of experiencing it, but it's not bad, allows a bit of rewinding, and gives you details directly from the playwright, so I can't complain too much.

It's very good. It's dense with ideas and themes. It's not neat and tidy (deliberately so, given the themes), but you can see how it all weaves together. There are plenty of mathematical/physical themes running through, with determinism, entropy, chaos theory and the like. And Byron, and gardens, and sex and all other stuff, weaving through and jumbling up. It's pleasantly clever.

It reminds me of many different things. The woven themes and ideas remind me of Nelson's Curses. The Chaos Theory Early '90s Zeitgeist reminds me of Dirk Gently. The slightly flakey maths-as-understood-by-a-writer is a little bit Ian McEwan, but charming instead of irritating.

What I particularly like about it is the way that it's clever but accessible. It's not terribly hard-going to enjoy, yet I can see (much of) the structure and marvel at it all. Fun.

Posted 2014-07-21.