Saturday, 18 February 2017

Keep Calm and Read Anita Brookner

I am, I suppose, a Powell fan. Lovers of Mencken will remember how it was accepted in the editorial office of the American Mercury that a delivery from the bootlegger should suspend all work until the treasure had been unwrapped, fondled, and even tasted. A new Powell affects me in much the same fashion. I hang the equivalent of 'Gone Fishing' on my door, and tear at the wrapping with a connoisseur's anticipation and a schoolboy's greed.
Philip Larkin, 'Mr Powell's Mural', Required Writing


The word 'fan' derives from the nineteenth century and was widespread from the 1920s and 30s. Nowadays, in our fractured world, where many of us know a lot about increasingly isolated areas of knowledge, almost everyone aspires to some form of fandom. Some fans are of course more organised than others, and I guess it also depends on the nature of the object of interest. Barbara Pym, for example, inspires merchandise ranging from tea towels to hand-thrown ceramics. There is, I understand, a Pym cookbook. From the Anthony Powell Society you can buy 'tote bags' emblazoned with messages such as 'A Buyer's Market'.

What will be Brookner's fate? Will we one day be able to buy a 'Keep Calm and Read Anita Brookner' mug? One rather doubts she would inspire such gimcrackery, such vulgarity. Yet aren't we - me, you - at some level mere fans, in some way like Larkin and that 'Gone Fishing' sign on his door?
Anthony Powell, Hilly Amis, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, 1950s

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