Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alice Thomas Ellis, Penelope Fitzgerald, and more

In the comments to my recent post on Alice Thomas Ellis, reader zmkc left a link to a post she'd written about Ellis's husband, Colin Haycraft, an editor who was at least in part responsible for shepherding not only Ellis, but also Penelope Fitzgerald and Beryl Bainbridge into print.

If you enjoy any of those writers, zmkc's post is well worth checking out. Along with some delicious quotations from one of Ellis's novels, she also reflects on the pleasures afforded by the brevity of the work of all three women:
As well as providing us with the pleasure of Bainbridge, Fitzgerald and Ellis's writing, Haycraft also argued in defence of the short novel (apparently, he wrote something called 'a satire' on the subject for the Times Literary Supplement, but, as it was well before the advent of the internet, I can find no trace of it). I support that view, not because I don't enjoy Dickens or George Eliot or Tolstoy, but because I think the lengthy novels that are published nowadays are rarely up to the standard of their predecessors. Nowadays they are often really just sloppily edited - or completely unedited - short novels (there's a slim volume lurking inside every fat volume, or something like that).
Oh, and there's a bonus of some A. N. Wilson-bashing, a pastime I always enjoy. Much as I appreciate his biography of Tolstoy and his book on the Victorians, I feel he's still got a ways to go before he's fully paid out for the jaw-dropping mean-spirited pettiness of his memoir of his friendship with Iris Murdoch and John Bayley.

As for Alice Thomas Ellis, I'm sure you'll be hearing more from me soon--I'm waiting impatiently for the Chicago Public Library to dig up copies of a couple more of her novels.

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