The best sure cure for homesickness, which can strike at any point on a foreign holiday, is a detective story. I shall unashamedly take Patricia Highsmith, whom I am re-reading, and who does not seem to date in the very least, and hope that Ripley - her amoral character - will give me the independence to sail through any uncomfortable encounter. I shall also take Henry James's The Spoils of Poynton, which is a kind of detective story, and read breathlessly until the new owner of the property is revealed.
'Holiday Reading', Observer, 4 July 1993
The Spoils of Poynton is one of James's transitional works, the first or one of the first of the later 1890s novels he wrote after the problems he'd had during his playwright phase. It's an intense little drama, full of quotable writing. It's one of James's most Brooknerian novels.
We're nearly in November now, and the piece above belongs to an earlier season. What an atmosphere of summers past it evokes! That vignette of Brookner heading off abroad (where? where?) and suffering homesickness! Her hard-won independence in the face of uncomfortable encounters!
I love these celebrity vox pop pieces. Here she keeps company with Craig Raine, Adam Thorpe, Katharine Whitehorn and Penelope Fitzgerald.