Monday 20 February 2017

Brooknerianism - a handy guide

Romanticism, Anita Brookner tells us, isn't just a mode. It literally eats into every life. Brooknerianism is not quite at that level, but we can all do more to live up to Brookner's high standards.

So here it is - to cut out and keep, your guide to the Brooknerian life.
  • Learn the importance of style - one day you may need to get by on it alone.
  • Learn the value of form - form, which is probably going to save us all.
  • Cherish art, though it does not love you and cannot console you.
  • Get to know London and Paris, but also the more esoteric corners of Brooknerland. Abroad in provincial cities, expect to be suitably indolent and homesick.
  • Be stealthy - like Jane in A Family Romance, at her little pavement table, deep in France, stealthily beginning to write.
  • Brush up your languages. Brooknerians are not fazed by long passages of untranslated French.
  • Cultivate a middle-aged persona, even years afterwards. You might say, for example, that you're 46, and have been for some time past.
  • Get your hair cut regularly, iron your shirts, wear scent or aftershave, and invest in some V-neck cashmere jumpers.
  • Read the classics - Trollope for decent feelings, James for moral scruple, Dickens for indignation, and Proust for pleasure.
  • Also read, surprising everyone, the Great White Males of twentieth-century American fiction.
  • Smoke, if you must - accepting the disapproval of others, while having no real plans to ditch the habit.
  • Be a regular at various grand hotels in Mitteleuropa. In Baden-Baden, hunker close to the Lichtentalerallee.
  • Say 'an' hotel, never 'a' hotel.
  • Go to bed de bonne heure. Brooknerians are not suited to the night.
  • Be accountable in your dealings with friends and lovers.
  • Cherish eighteenth-century clear-sightedness, but accept the discontents of your ruined Romantic nineteenth-century inheritance.
  • Nevertheless, prize boldness, fearlessness.
  • Attend parties, but leave early. Keep yourself rare.
  • Maintain a careful, even a valetudinarian watch on your health, but don't always seek professional help. Trust to unconscious processes, be a devotee of Freud.
  • Speak with care and precision. Put others on their mettle.
  • Last of all, drink tisanes, with a little honey, to give an illusion of well-being.

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