Friday 17 February 2017

The Experience

I've been what you might call an Anita Brookner fan for more than twenty-five years, but looking back through my reading records I find I haven't read her all the time. Whole years went by. During the period in which she published annually, each year's novel might be my only Brookner. But I kept the faith in other ways, stayed true to authors she revered. At one time I loved Trollope. For years I anaesthetised myself with those long Victorian novels. When I came to the end of a novel I would feel angst-ridden and unmoored unless I had another to hand. Anthony Trollope himself was known to start writing his next book almost the very day after he had finished the last. There was obsession, there was neurosis, in such an arrangement, surely, and there was in mine too. But the novels of Anthony Trollope, I recall, gave me lots of pleasure. He got me beyond youth. Patiently and diligently I followed the careers of his churchmen and politicians. I grew discreet and inward, like Plantagenet Palliser. I also loved the byways of Trollope’s novels, chapters and groups of chapters in which the plot meandered far and wide, into unexpected places. This sets me wondering about the experience of reading certain authors. Reading the novels of Anita Brookner is a particular experience. One feels immersed, one feels overcome, one feels seduced. The rhythms of the sentences, the paragraphs, the chapters gradually exert a hold. It is almost physical. One's pulse, one's breathing slows. One has entered an altered state, and is at Brookner's mercy.

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