The Undeground Man

By: Jackson, Mick

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The Undeground Man by Jackson, Mick
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MacMillan July 1998. 8vo softcover 268pp very good. remainder mark on page bottoms. The novel takes the form of journal entries interspersed with eyewitness accounts from servants and neighbors. The "Underground Man" portrayed in the novel, William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, the Duke of Portland and a resident of Nottinghamshire, England, is mightily eccentric; the man was real (1800-1879), as was his eccentricity. Historical fact: the Duke commissioned eight tunnels on his estate. Present-day fact: if you walk the estate today, you see the skylights--2' in diameter and 4" thick. But why did he build them? In the last few days of the Duke's life, eccentricity burgeons; madness follows. The reader learns that his odd view of the world was shaped by early tragedy, the full truth of which is withheld until the last few pages. The Underground Man is that most delectable blend of fact and fiction, one in which the intriguing details of a real life are richly explored through imagination. Through a fictional journal, Jackson constructs a portrait of William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, fifth Duke of Portland (d. 1879), a prodigious eccentric best known for the elaborate network of tunnels he built beneath his estate. The duke is portrayed as a repressed hypochondriac, an old man morbidly curious about the workings of his body and mind. During the months encompassed by the novel, he grows increasingly obsessed with the fleeting bits of memory that intrude upon his ruminations and hint at some horrific, long-buried secret. A prime example of the psychological bent of the contemporary British neo-Gothic novel, this first novel from a British filmmaker and teacher of creative writing explores the darker fringes of consciousness. A subdued, though peculiarly compelling, tale. .

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