November 13th, 2013

When the Zodiac Cracks the Man Booker Prize: Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries

It’s long been a tacit secret that Margaret Mitchell used the 12 signs of the zodiac to define and imbue her characters in Gone With The Wind.

UK astrologer Neil Spencer describes Mitchell as having based her epic “on the zodiac, leaving a blatant trail of clues which were only picked up in 1978 when US astrologer Darrell Martinie was shown photocopies of notes from Mitchell’s library.”

You can do the celestial math. Scarlett O’Hara, is an impetuous, selfish but ultimately heroic Aries. Rhett Butler, a passionate and proud but principled (when need be) Leo. Sister-in-law Melanie Hamilton, a self-sacrificing Virgo. I’ve often wondered what sign Prissy (“I don’t know nothing about birthin’ babies”) might have been based upon. Maybe a hysterical Pisces or Sagittarius?

Where only speculation surrounded Mitchell’s masterpiece, we now have a Man Booker Prize winner — Eleanor Catton and her second novel The Luminaries (what a stellar title!) — pushing its way into the world of popular literature. Catton has talked openly about the astrological motif (and its influence) that enlivens her prize-winning fictional work. In an interview with PBS’ Jeffrey Brown she notes:

“In my research for the book, I discovered, to my interest and astonishment, that astrology really is an incredibly mathematical system and one that has a lot in common with music. In music, we have got the 12 semitones and then the seven natural notes in the scale.

And in astrology, you have got the 12 signs and the seven planets. A lot of the kind of interrelations that happen and the harmonies that happen in the sky are quite similar to the harmonies that can happen or the chords that can happen in music.”

Good for her! No mention of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Rather than spend time sharing my impressions of the theme and the charming author you can watch the interview here.

And order a copy from Amazon. (I just placed my order tonight, and can’t wait!)


10 Responses to 'When the Zodiac Cracks the Man Booker Prize: Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries'
Filed Under: Astrology and Zeitgeist
  1. ... remarks:

    Thank you for posting this, Frederick. She is charming. And a game changer, I hope. I like how in the interview when asked if she had fun putting it all together, she says, yes, enormous fun: writing has to be for the reader to enjoy it (casting a different light on the tortured writer image too).

    November 14th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
  2. Omie remarks:

    I’m reading this one now. Only about a hundred pages in, but it’s fun to watch her neatly lay out archetypes to propel the plot.

    November 14th, 2013 at 4:39 pm
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