Review of “Lexicon” by Max Barry
52 minutes ago
It's kind of funny that Muriel Spark, from the vantage point of 1963, regarded 1945 as "long ago". I suppose it says a lot about how much the state of the nation changed from the immediate aftermath of World War II to the swinging sixties. This must have been especially true for the women who lived at the May of Teck Club. Would it even still have existed in 1963? From its rules of governance:
Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor...[A]t least that was a general axiom, the best of the rich being poor in spirit.
I wish I had this edition.
The May of Teck Club exists for the Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years, who are obliged to reside apart from their Families in order to follow an Occupation in London.Many of the women who live at the club, while they may hold a job in London, are clearly biding their time (and playing the field) until they get married. Like a school or any other physically close community, the women self-segregate according to their inclinations and aspirations. At The May of Teck Club the segregation plays out floor by floor.
[On the third floor] there seemed to have congregated, by instinctive consent, most of the celibates, the old maids of settled character and various ages, those who had decided on a spinster's life, and those who would one day do so but had not yet discerned the fact for themselves.I find the last phrase particularly humorous. It's kind of the same for young gays. Many of us sought out like-minded individuals without really knowing what we were seeking out or why.
|That's Lucy not reading Providence.|
‘…it is characteristic of the Romantic to reason endlessly in unbearable situations, and yet to remain bound by such situations…For the romantic, the power of reason no longer operates. Or rather, it operates, but it cannot bring about change.’And both Brookner and Constant use language that is rather staid compared to the turmoil it describes. Again, Kitty’s exegesis on Constant could apply as easily to Brookner:
…the potency of this particular story comes from the juxtaposition of extremely dry language and extremely heated, almost uncontrollable sentiments…[T]here is a feeling that it is almost kept under lock and key, that even if the despair is total, the control remains.And there is more than a little connection between the two works in the fact that Kitty’s behavior towards Maurice is a more modern, less dramatic version of the theme that Kitty abhors in Adolphe. It is only for the sake of studying the juxtaposition of classicism and Romanticism that Kitty overlooks:
…its terribly enfeebling message: that a man gets tired of a woman if she sacrifices everything for him, that such a woman will eventually die of her failure, and that the man will be poisoned by remorse for the rest of his life.Of course the modern twist means that Kitty doesn’t get to die of a broken heart, and Maurice, most certainly feels no remorse.
|No doubt this badge does not refer to British |
fiction writers. Until now.
|The Reichl Challenge: Do a Google image search and try|
to find a picture of her without the infectious smile.
She makes me happy.
|I wonder if either of them live on Boracay Island?|
When asked how it felt to work in the male-dominated atmosphere of Cambridge University in the sixties, she answered, “Nobody looked all that male and I didn’t look all that female.”What a hoot. If you want to read the interview follow this link.
Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.In my humble opinion, one of the great opening lines of the 20th century. (Yet in a way, it isn't very 20th century in sentiment, is it?) Slightly less often, reviews of The Debut go on to quote what comes after the opening line:
In her toughtful and academic way, she put it down to her faulty moral education, which dictated, through the conflicting, but in this one instance, united agencies of her mother and father, that she ponder the careers of Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary, but that she emulate those of David Copperfield and Little Dorritt.But then where do I go from there? Perhaps say something trite about the fact that Brookner's work is highly literate and that she is nothing if not a booklovers novelist. Done and done.
She took her grandmother's hand and kissed it, then raised the book to her cheek and held it there for a little while...With little more than books to show her the way it is no surprise that Ruth takes on the role of parenting her parents fairly early in life. When her teacher at school wants to see her parents her mother is less than accomodating. But by this time Ruth knows what it will take to motivate her mother.
For once she learned cunning. "They all talk about you at school," she said carefully. "they ask me lots of questions. They still talk about you in Lady Windermere's Fan. And you've never been there. You or Daddy. I think you should come once. These things make a difference.And then reverting back to girlhood:
Cunning deserted her. "And it is my future we're talking about."And so they go to school and so then does Ruth go to university. But even in that her mother's selfishness wins out. Although she shows little interest in Ruth's life, her mother insists that she not even try for Oxford or Cambridge because she wants her close at hand.
|I covet this wonderful Lucien Freud still life that the|
artist painted for the dowager Duchess of Devonshire
before she was dowagered. (I think I made that word up.)
|It was as we were combing through the above mentioned giant stack of magazine pages|
this week that I found the article that had the Freud egg painting in it. When I went
to scan the Freud image for this post, I noticed that the 2003 House and Garden (U.S.)
article about the Duchess also had two other egg pictures in it. So I had to include them here.