Tuesday 27 November 2018

A Private View: Chapter by Chapter: 5, 6

  • Chapter lengths: Brookner lived by her routines, and in most of her novels (though not the last ones) her chapters are noticeably even in length. A Private View is like this but (along with the previous one, A Family Romance) unlike too, in that its chapters are about double the normal Brookner length (twenty rather than ten pages). It suits A Private View in particular, which focuses on a short period of time in the protagonist's life. Chapter 5, for example, covers a single day. But why impose on oneself a chapter-length format anyhow? Such structure was necessary for the likes of Trollope, who was writing for serial publication, but not in the late twentieth century. I guess Brookner was one of those artists whom restriction rather than freedom made creative.
  • Sickert. For more on the Royal Academy's 1992 Sickert exhibition, click on the label below. (I find Bland pays a second, weekday visit to the exhibition, but on a Monday not a Tuesday, so, again, he failed to cross paths with Jim Lees-Milne.)
  • Brookner skewers with a passion Katy's 'airy Californian make-believe' of encounter groups and self-affirmation. In this way she places herself in a determinedly English tradition. Kingsley Amis does something similar in Jake's Thing.
  • There's a nod to Stefan Zweig in chapter 6, in the line about being 'beware of pity'. Zweig had a vogue in the early twenty-first century, but Brookner was there already.
  • Bland's upholstery - pink and green stripes - is rather jollier than Brookner's grey and white stripes, visible on the National Portrait Gallery website (here) in a photo of the time.

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