Friday 24 February 2017

The Art of the Interview

There is no virtue in confession, although it is said to be good for the soul.
Incidents in the Rue Laugier, Ch. 15

Anita Brookner interviews (I know of seven, five of which are on the web) are remarkable affairs, and may sound confessional. But they're also clever performances, full of artifice. There's a degree of repetition between exchanges, as though over the years she were issuing and riffing on a set of prepared statements. One is reminded of Samuel Johnson's comments on the eighteenth-century familiar letter, a form that at first appears open and honest and artless but is in fact highly premeditated and contrived (see Johnson's 'Pope', The Lives of the Poets).

Brookner, however much she might value a simpler approach ('I shall try to change,' says Blanche at the end of A Misalliance. 'Try to live a little more carelessly. Artlessly.'), nevertheless maintains a very careful carapace, a defence against all comers. As she told Blake Morrison in 1994, 'I'm not about to reveal all.'

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