What were slimming biscuits? Evidently some healthful preparation, now obsolete. She was, when I met her, very thin, almost brittle. As thin and as brittle – one might ask – as her fiction?
In her fiction, in 1992’s Fraud in particular, there are themes of food anxiety. Anna Durrant is very probably anorexic. Her doctor worries about her. She dreams of sweet food, a vast sugary cake that breaks apart to reveal… a wedding ring. Freud would have had a field day with that one.
A huge disgusting pudding features in the disastrous climactic scene of Look at Me. Terrible truths are revealed, and everyone is enjoined to eat – eat – eat!
At the close of A Private View, his adventure at an end, his illusions dismantled, George Bland, in the act of biting into a biscuit, doubles up with grief.
The form of Brookner’s novels – their briefness, their thinness – led to accusations of slightness. Certainly there was a lack of full engagement or commitment to the notion of creation, a suggestion that such activity – such storytelling – was somehow a little vulgar. She said once she wasn’t imaginative; she could only invent. And yet there was a hunger to write, an almost pathological desire. And yet there was also a longing to finish and have done.