Sunday 20 November 2016

A Pearl-diving Plunge

'Ah, good reading is a creative act!' declares the bumptious old professor in Deconstructing Harry. One book leads to another, one author to the next. I think I became a Jamesian because I was first a Brooknerian. I remember once reading that Anita Brookner reread The Spoils of Poynton every year. Did I imagine this? I cannot find the reference. It may have been in one of those celebrity vox pops the Spectator used to do on various topics (the piece about tisane in an earlier post is from one of those) or perhaps it's in one of the interviews - or perhaps, indeed, I dreamt it.

The Spoils of Poynton is a Brooknerian reading experience, which is probably why she chose it. The opposition between the sensitive, high-strung Fleda Vetch, for whom happiness is a kind of pearl-diving plunge, and the assorted vulgarians that circle her, is pure Brookner. One thinks of dreamy Anna Durrant in Fraud, or Frances Hinton in Look at Me, at the mercy of the venal careless Frasers.

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