Friday, 16 December 2016

Personal Responses

Brookner, as we have seen, was rarely reviewed in ways that weren't extreme. Often, especially in the middle period, the tone was vitriolic. At the other extreme one found pieces lauding her to the heavens, and these often ended up on the covers of her books. The following review, of The Rules of Engagement, is noteworthy not only because it is written by a Courtauld colleague, Brian Sewell, but also because of the level of personal identification admitted to. We aren't, Brooknerians, reading her as some dry academic exercise; we are reading her because she tells the story of our own lives. (Not that Brian Sewell could ever really be called anything other than a Sewellian.)

Transposing gender here and there, I recognised every moment of the novel as in some sense the tale of my own life (as I suppose it must be of Miss Brookner’s too), except that in mine coffee and Madeira took the place of tea — the same rebuffs, the same warmth accommodating itself to the same chill, the same marital exclusions, the same sex for the sake of it, perfunctory, with the excuse that some sex is better than no sex at all, the same — if I may borrow for my purposes the title of her second book of essays — romanticism and its discontents.
Evening Standard, 22 June 2003 (Link)

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