Saturday 25 September 2021

Mild to Moderate

Objectively speaking, I was not too badly affected by Covid. I stayed out of hospital. I got better. But I had it before it was a common experience for many, and before vaccines were available; my system met the virus as it were innocently. A colleague who caught it at the same time, indeed in the same room, told me she'd ever afterwards been unable to concentrate on her reading. I ask myself now, nine months on, whether I've weathered similar doldrums.

After Klara and the Sun and Dryden, mentioned in an earlier post, I reread The Bostonians, was admiring, but not enchanted. I tried reading Our Mutual Friend again, but found, as ever with Dickens, the higher-class scenes unpersuasive: my reading grew desultory, eventually broke down.

I read some of a novel called Maxwell's Demon, till it got too postmodern even for me, and all of Martin Amis's The Zone of Interest, but more out of horrified fascination than any real appreciation.

I read Kipling: Stalky and Puck of Pook's Hill and 'Mrs Bathurst' and 'The Gardener', the latter two in nice editions I bought in the hope they might add piquancy to my reading. I read Scott's The Monastery and its sequel The Abbot, and enjoyed them to an extent. And I now find myself trolling through the last few chapters of E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia books. Mild to moderate indeed.

I recently bought a 1770 edition of Richardson's Grandison. Readers of this blog will recall my love of Clarissa. I may report back, but I may be some time.*

* In an early essay, Brookner calls Samuel Richardson one of Diderot's 'less defensible enthusiasms', alongside the artist Greuze, and Diderot's own 'terrible middle-class, middle-brow dramas', Le Père de Famille and Le Fils naturel. Even the finest have their blind spots. (Brookner, The Genius of the Future, 1971)

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