Sunday 25 November 2018

A Private View: Chapter by Chapter: 3, 4

  • For so apparently metropolitan a writer suburbia exerts a curious lure. Lewis Percy was Brookner's explicitly 'suburban novel'. In other works - Visitors - the areas beyond the centre are foci for nostalgia and a sense of lost authenticity. In A Private View, Bland's London home, by comparison with his dreams of the past, seems 'flimsy, meretricious, unconvincing'.
  • The encounters with Katy Gibb in her differing guises - hippy, waif, courtesan - crackle with energy. Brookner hates her but is fascinated. The private view is under way.
  • Reading Brookner is an education in looking. Some might say she interprets too much from characters' outward appearances. But one would counter-argue that Brookner the art critic is at work - looking, looking, looking, and missing nothing. As a child, she said, she was very good at looking.
  • Bland isn't Brookner, but she sneaks in little details. He has, for example, large hands. Anita Brookner, one notices, also had large hands.
  • By chapter 4, Bland is 'near the edge'. His condition is persuasively depicted. As readers of this blog will know, A. N. Wilson in his Daily Mail obituary of Brookner recounted an incident at a party in the 1990s. Brookner was in her sixties; the host was twenty years younger and, Wilson claims, the object of Brookner's love. At one point she disappeared from the party. Wilson found her upstairs, sitting alone on the host's bed, among the guests' coats. She looked quite abject. It was, he thought, the closest she would ever come to the man's bed. An indiscreet, even a shocking anecdote. But it shows us that the likes of A Private View (1994) may well not concern emotion recollected in tranquillity, but instead may have been written in the very thick of the action.

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