Thursday 4 May 2017

On Drink

In one of Anita’s later novels, the female protagonist, when having supper alone in her flat, regularly has a glass of white wine. Being interested in wine, I couldn’t help noticing that each time supper occurred, the wine was different: first a chardonnay, then a pinot grigio, then a sauvignon, and so on; but the last wine to be drunk in the book was, unexpectedly, sweet – a sauternes. I wondered if such changingness might be significant, intended perhaps as an emblem of the protagonist’s volatility. At lunch I mentioned this theory, and referred to that puzzling late switch from dry to sweet. ‘Oh no,’ replied Anita unconcernedly, ‘I just went into a shop and copied down the names.’

No one ever gets drunk in an Anita Brookner novel. The character identified by Julian Barnes is probably Blanche in A Misalliance - a very mild toper, all things considered. Very mild in comparison with, for example, the folk to be found in an average Kingsley Amis. Followers of this blog will know I've a penchant for Amis. I always love his drinking scenes, those long extended set-pieces that occupy such central positions in his novels. Amis himself was a legendary drinker, but said he never wrote while drunk. In his Memoirs he criticised writers such as Paul Scott, claimed he could always spot the moment in a Scott novel when the stuff went pouring in.

Mentions of drink in Brookner novels - champagne in A Friend from England, a glass of beer in Fraud - are few and far between, and represent not so much points of interest as moments of authorial awkwardness, moments when she steps a little gingerly outside her range. What, one wonders, would Brookner's world be like if it were less sober?

1 comment:

  1. Alex comments:
    In 'Visitors' (Ch 8, p 124) Dorothea "... drank her wine gratefully, resolving to do so more often: drinkers had more fun, were more approachable." But, on p125, Dorothea suffers the consequence of "two unaccustomed glasses of wine'. Rather sounds as though Brookner was writing from experience as I'm sure I read that, for instance, Champagne gave her a headache. Alex


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