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I'm writing my PhD on contemporary British novelist and

French Romantic art historian Anita Brookner, best
known for writing boring books about lonely, single
women. My PhD re-assembles this description in ways
that make her look good. I will submit in 2010.

80-word PhD
Anita Brookner is a contemporary British novelist and French
Romantic art historian known to write boring books about lonely,
single women. I argue that Brookner’s reception or ‘first reading’
is a misreading effected by the way in which contemporaneity
and heterosexuality are produced in the literary marketplace.
Inspired by an array of nineteenth-century intertextual
references in the Brookner novel, I draw on French aestheticism
to produce a new epistemology of the Brookner text. I stage a
cast of ‘Romantic Personae’ including the Military Man, the
Aesthete, the Dandy and the Flaneur as narrative devices
which provide an alternative methodology for reading
Brookner. The result is a new mode of literary criticism
called ‘performative romanticism.’ The outcome is a
queering of the Brookner text.

Anita Brookner - her life and work
This is the working draft of my entry on AB "her life and work" for
The Literary Encyclopedia
Anita Brookner is an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French art
historian and a contemporary British novelist. Brookner was born on
July 16, 1928, in Herne Hill, South London. The only child of Maude
and Newson Bruckner, the novelist’s family were Polish Jews.
Brookner’s father left Poland when he was sixteen and fought for
the British in World War I; Brookner’s mother, a professional
mezzo-soprano before her marriage, was born in London. The
Brookner household comprised an extended family whom
Brookner described as being “of such surpassing eccentricity
that with the passing of the years I honestly think most of
them were mad” (Barber, March, 1983, p.26).

The family ran a tobacco-importing business, an interesting fact
given that the last known image of the novelist published to
accompany a Daily Telegraph interview in 2009 shows her smoking
a cigarette. In the same interview, a former student of
Brookner’s from the 1960s recalls how Brookner smoked
throughout tutorials and encouraged students to smoke as
well. In addition to its Freudian connotations, the image reflects
Brookner’s quiet subversion, both anachronistic and erotic.
Anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe impacted the family in a number
of ways. Cosmetically, it informed the change of name from
Bruckner to Brookner as well as Newsom Brookner’s decision to give
his daughter the novels of Dickens to read. “My Polish father, who
remained very Polish, thought that the best thing he could do for
me was to unveil the mysteries of English life which could be found
in the novels of Charles Dickens: he really believed that. So I was
set to read Dickens at the age of seven, and I read all the novels”,
she explained (Haffenden, 1985, p.68). Both creatively and morally,
this was to have an enormous effect on Brookner. Fragile health
prevented her learning Hebrew and the family shifted to central
London in search of a better environment. She attended the James
Allen’s School for Girls, Dulwich, and on weekends would escape to
the Dulwich Picture Gallery where she received an early initiation in
the power of images. Brookner is an atheist, although she once
remarked that “You can never betray the people who are
dead, so you go on being a public Jew; the dead can’t answer
slurs, but I’m here. I would love to think that Jesus wants
me for a sunbeam, but he doesn’t” (Haffenden, 1985, p.67).
Brookner proceeded to Kings College, University of London where
she studied history and French literature, before taking up art
history at the Courtauld Institute of Art because she “hated history
without the pictures” (McGregor, 1982). In 1950, she won a French
government scholarship to write her dissertation on the French
painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) at the École du Louvre,
Brookner’s parents objected to her move abroad and refused to
support her financially. She supplemented her small stipend by
writing articles (like one of her famous subjects, Charles Baudelaire
(1821-67), whose portrait by Édouard Manet (1832-83) hangs in
her Chelsea flat) for the Burlington Magazine and the Times Literary
Supplement, commenting that “I was liberated by poverty
before I knew what the women’s movement was all about”
(Hale, June 1985, p.37).

She has frequently described this period as the happiest of
her life.
A prodigious critical career was set in motion, which has
spanned over sixty years and established Brookner as an
international authority in eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury French art criticism. The Romantic period, she says,
is “of great interest to me, because it’s to do with modes of
behaviour, as much as ways of doing things”
After three years in Paris, Brookner reluctantly returned to
London to care for sick parents. She first taught art history at
Reading University. In 1967, she was appointed the first
female Slade Professor of Art at Cambridge and was a lecturer
and then Reader at the Courtauld from 1964 to 1988. Her success
as a French Romantic art historian is often disguised by a modest
and ironic personal narrative, yet Brookner was considered a
pioneer in New Art Criticism and published a number of critical texts
including a celebrated monograph on Jacques Louis David, The
Genius of the Future: Studies in French Art Criticism and
Romanticism and its Discontents. Much of Brookner’s criticism
concerns writers and artists who also made significant contributions
to the emerging queer canon, such as Charles Baudelaire , JorisKarl Huysmans (1848-1907) and Henry James (1843-1916).
Brookner was considered a “popular star turn” at the
Courtauld. Former student and one-time director of the National
Gallery, Neil McGregor, recalled that “She insisted that art
historians must have the courage of their feelings as well as
their convictions” (Guppy, July 1998, p.285). Brookner
expressed surprise at the degree to which she enjoyed
teaching: “I’m such a nervous person I wouldn’t have
thought I’d be good at it. But the students are so amiable.
They haven’t yet learned those little hypocrisies. And if they
trust you, then you must give them your full attention” (Hale,
June 1985, p.37). In 2009, reflecting on her career as a
novelist, she said “My real work was as a teacher and an
academic, and I loved it. This is really just filling the time”
(Brown, 20 Feb 2009).
At the age of fifty-one, Brookner published her first novel, A
Start in Life (1980), which shares its title with a 1844 novelette
by Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), Un Debut dans la vie, and in
which the main protagonist, Dr Ruth Weiss, is a Balzac literary
critic. Brookner gave “intense boredom” as the driving force
behind her decision to write this novel (Hale. June 1985. p.38).
“Since I have nothing better to do, let me see if I can work it out,”

although gender indicators do not substantially alter character or plot in Brookner’s fiction. At times. Meanwhile. In 1984. journalist Richard Mayne contributed by asking Brookner to comment on her similarities with her main protagonist Edith Hope: “she’s obviously very beautiful. Brookner expanded discussion of the novel by commenting that Edith Hope is “not a twentieth-century heroine. later. ironic and privileged. I have never written fiction before in my life. as a story about “a nineteenth-century family without a nineteenth century to support it. 18 October 1984). Brookner’s novels generally depict a solitary. she represented her fifth novel. historian Richard Cobb. These are characteristics which you share with her. a broad capacity for self-reflection and. a woman with a legendary knowledge of love and pleasure. Do you share any others?” (Mayne. Family and Friends (1985). the Brooknerine’s knowledge of nineteenth-century art and literature informs a misreading of context. In 1987. although trips to the continent are often imagined if not actualised. Immediately following the ceremony it was reported as “somewhat curious” that the Chairman of Judges. the texts exhibit a type of chronotopic disjunctiveness which has commonly been associated with more obviously “experimental” writers such as Jeanette Winterson and John Fowles.161). The “Brooknerine” (male or female) often displays forms of ennui. Similarly. references to nineteenth-century textual and aesthetic production produce a “nineteenth-century effect” in Brookner’s fiction and denote an archive of intertextual source material in the Brookner text. as walking-protagonists. intelligent and elegant heroine. who attempts to reconcile her experience of the world with her expectations. 4 September 1985). August 1981.” (Lee. Hotel du Lac. praised the novel as “almost eighteenth-century” (Mayne. Significantly.” (Guppy. In A Misalliance (1986).6). the Jamesian Blanche Vernon’s obsession with the nymphs of Renaissance painting is transferred to life when she meets nymphet Sally Beamish. although I have always wanted to do so” (Brookner. p. she belongs to the nineteenth century. “Only as an experiment. p. she won the Booker Prize for her fourth novel. As a result. Three publishers rejected the novel before it was picked up by Liz Calder at Jonathan Cape. of course. The novels are set primarily in contemporary Britain. A small number of her novels feature male protagonists. These comments are indicative of the way in which both nineteenth-century and twentieth-century narratives inhabit Brookner’s contemporary fiction. Fall 1987.she told herself. 18 October 1984). but also underwrites a complex narrative voice. they inevitably guide readers through the streets of inner-city London. Brookner became a bestseller for Penguin. In A Friend from England .

childless and “outdated”. “The bad reviews were partly a dislike of Blanche. 27 August. She stopped giving interviews.16). saying “they always get it wrong” (Guppy. The critical consensus was that Brookner was a “spinster novelist” who was out of touch with time and place. Brookner’s early reception (or “first reading”) was produced in an ideological context organised around feminism. As a result. Popular success notwithstanding. In Undue Influence (1999). However. Brookner noted after the publication of A Misalliance. 3 November 2000. asking “How can this still be the way of the world at the end of the twentieth century?” (Steiner. Ostensibly because both the novelist and her heroines are unmarried. plotless. anachronistic. At the same time. . when Nigel Ford put it to Brookner that “love and marriage is also one of your big themes”. Brookner’s art history retrospectively came under attack. and of me since I’m supposed to be all these women I create”. Peter Kemp stereotyped Brookner as the novelist of “migraines. p.S. Reviews presented her as a figure of popular ridicule and she received little academic attention. Beatrice’s deathly premonition is precipitated by a painting by William Turner (17891851) at the Tate Gallery. The novels all engage in some way with the genre of domestic fiction.” (Ford. Brief Lives (1990) alludes to the “Brief Lives” of seventeenth-century antiquarian John Aubrey (1626-97). she replied “in a certain parodied sense. postmodernism. p. Claire Pitt’s fabulous imagination inclines toward multiple forms of selfdeception. May. p. Lewis Percy (1989).(1987). a tendency which is morally abrogated when read as an instance of the Baudelairean imagination. historicism and the provisions of the literary marketplace. repetitive and unoriginal. Byatt. who shares a love of the inconsequential with Brookner’s narrator. Reviewing her ninth novel. Brookner received widespread criticism for being boring. while her failure to do so enables a Venetian adventure which elicits amorous revelations in front of Giorgione’s “The Tempest”. but where Byatt was elevated to a DBE in 1999 Brookner has not been similarly honoured. 23 January 2000. 1990).282). with one critic declaring that it propagated “a wilful lack of context” (Higonnet.34). the first reading of Brookner constituted a wholesale devaluation of her oeuvre. some feminists took umbrage at Brookner’s representation of women. flushes and female malaises” (Kemp. In Falling Slowly (1998). it became standard practice to read the Brookner text as autobiographical fiction. July 1998. Brookner was awarded a CBE in 1990 in the company of A. 1989). Fay Dodworth. Stendhalian Rachel Kennedy expends considerable energy trying to influence Heather Livingstone.

social and family background to Brookner’s own life” (Williams-Wanquet. I see no need for them. She comments that "the uneventful life". Despite the temporal complexity and narrational subtleties of Brookner’s fiction. Fall 1987. On solitude and the autobiographical In a 1989 interview.29). p. p. Such presuppositions about the relation between the author’s life and art have obscured other possibilities of theorisation. (Haffenden. in particular in relation to the discourses associated with Decadent and Aestheticist subjects in Brookner’s nineteenth-century art criticism where the privileging of art over life challenged the way in which conventional narratives were deployed to naturalise categories of gender. p. inspiring such insights as “[Brookner] is autobiographical sometimes to excess and even uses red hair like her own in almost every book” (Sadler.64). 1990.166). Gail Caldwell raises the issue of the autobiographical presumption that has contributed to Brookner's misreading. The ideal of love. “In the nineteenth century it seemed more powerful and valid to dissolve order. as when Williams-Wanquet observes that: “The social and historical forces that have fashioned the protagonists constantly correspond to the author’s own spatial and temporal setting… All that serves to set the protagonist realistically in time and space corresponds [sic] to the historical. 2004.(Guppy.ix).” Brookner said. 1985. "coupled with the intense intimacy of her novels has led more than one reviewer to speculate that Brookner's fiction is drawn from the well of autobiography". sexuality. Adaptations: Kristen Scott Thomas as Miriam and Sherilyn Fenn as Beatrice in Falling Slowly (1998) Hotel du Lac I meant as a love story pure and simple: love triumphed over temptation. Autobiographical criticism continued to foster Brookner’s devaluation. a euphemism for the unmarried and the childless. generic biographical criticism has tended to foreclose awareness of Brookner’s ironic problematization of subjectivity. history and representation. since life is too complicated and it's rarely just. p. and especially of gender identity. She quotes AB as saying that the parallels are: . (Here it sounds like Caldwell's alluding to Raddclyffe Hall's "The Well of Loneliness"). Basically i don't like adversarial positions.

Writing it in the present tense is marvelous it's like going for a walk with all these people hearing all these voices. It couldn't be shaped. Solitude isn't loneliness. instinctively i found it easier. You immerse yourself more with your characters and you feed yourself into their lives. HL: No it's not. You don't have to throw it into the past. In 1985 Hermione Lee asked her about her fifth novel Family and Friends (1985) HL: Why is it written in the present tense? AB: Ah that's tiresome isn't it. Because solitude is very enriching. I saw it as a little exercise in selfanalysis. What is interesting about self-analysis is that it leads nowhere. which seemed to be drifting in predictable channels.certainly not! Self-analysis as an art form. this poor thing. "Boredom". it's as if the voices are in your ear.' I find this unacceptable. i don't know what it is. She continued: and the wish to review my life. you see: 'Oh. if you do it that way. you're contemporary with them. forced to live in her imagination. Asked why she started writing fiction.a load of nonsense. I found it easier. Nevertheless. Brookner replied. It is an art form in itself. It's some kind of subterranean performance. It wouldn't work if it were autobiographical. . It's used as a criticism. Writing a book in the past tense is a very formal exercise and you sit down and you think I'm going to tell a story and it happened like this and there's quite a burden laid on you to do it that way. AB: Ah but the fact is. too. that's a very crude mistake. 23/7: AB on the art of fiction Brookner is known for her technical skill but you don't see her resourced as a go-to expert on the art of novel writing. And it's quite an insulting one. a book writes itself much more quickly if you use the present tense. she makes a few interesting comments on the topic. But it's not something I'm burning to get off my chest . I can't justify it in any othe way.

They've been called very depressing. There is no safe conclusion.22 July: The thing is to not be too frightened Asked to comment re how her books differ from traditional romances. But anyone who has had unhappy experiences won't find them depressing. The Times Monday March 21. yet they persist and they are much more emotionally honest than most people. 14/7: Strong Brooknerines "I think the women in the book are strong". i think they read them for consolation. AB also said about herself (to Michael Barber). for the most part referencing the truths that she's exposed in her writing. Spoken about her first novel. "I think I've been very brave". 8/7: Late fruits and flowers "I think repression has its uses.things don't work out. Repression sometimes leads to a very fruitful late flowering when you realize you can . I think Brooknerines are strong too. and it can come out right. in reference to A Start in Life (1980). My books differ in the sense that they're more realistic. 1983. AB replies: The interesting thing is that women still want to read these romances. 12/7: ??? "The worst thing in life is not knowing what is going on". I think she's talking about the life she's made for herself. it's interesting to wonder what would have happened if this sentiment had become the dominant narrative about the Brooknerine. They want to know that it can work out in the end. They are outsiders. I frequently experience this with my thesis. They're more fragmented. AB to Caroline Moorehead. We'd have to have been living in a different world. It's very unrealistic to find them depressing. Life is depressing if you're too frightened of it. The thing is to not be too frightened. Brookner told Sue McGregor.

4/7: Other faces of AB I love Brookner's interviews because she says such smart and funny things. SMG: Total recollection? AB: Extraordinary recollection. I'm not making munitions. and again later. it’s more or less unconscious. AB replies: I wouldn't say that. AB: Well. SMG: Presumably also for conversations? . Or maybe she wasn't feeling well. I'm not very popular. is one of my favourites because it's hilarious. McCrum starts off by talking about The Bay of Angels. so I think it's acceptable." 7/7: Making Munitions Brookner's interview with Robert McCrum in The Observer January 2001. that's all i can say about it. in which case that's not so good. I'm sorry if it's mournful. the curious thing is that i didn't intend to write it. SMG: You’ve got a good memory? AB: Superb. My July series of AB quotes will be a way to address this imbalance. McCrum asks AB if there was a particular moment of inspiration for The Bay of Angels. She is really sarcastic in it and appears to be very resistant to the interview. There's so many good moments in it that i'm not sure which to pluck out. But I'm only writing fiction. which incidentally received a lot of attention for the absence of historical context and I'm pretty sure it was shortlisted for some prizes (she says convincingly).. I had a good time. called "Just don't mention Jane Austen". But my obsession with the interviews is primarily based on the fact that it's often the least interesting or contentious things that have been pasted together to produce the dominant narrative about the author.break the rules at last. Here she's saying: get fucked. when McCrum says "You've been very successful for a late starter". because they're bleak and they're mournful and all the rest of it and I get censorious reviews. so it came upon me quite suddenly and quite easily and I enjoyed writing it. I'm sorry if it's bleak. I didn't know I was going to write it..

. any library. Radio Four (London: National Sound Archive. Perhaps this would be #1 if i was more objective. Perfect really. B. (From Sue McGregor's interview with Anita Brookner (unpublished) Woman’s Hour. Claire is also quite funny . Falling Slowly (1998). less sentimental. 13 January 1982)) A dominant narrative about AB concerns her low selfesteem. Extremely sad. idiots and other highly educated people seem to confuse self-examination and selfanalysis. bundled with Soundings. 3. a deeper subversion than this. Hilarious. Busy. Very beautiful and very funny..I go to say hysterical but then I change my mind. Lives in her head. Contemporary. i present a list of Brookner's 24 novels in order of my favourite. Thanks for that insightful piece of literary criticism.B. (How's that for commodification?) "This was somehow a day on which concentration would not be possible. or a way . even modesty. I like the above excerpt from an early AB interview. along with countless other examples. I love Blanche." 2. Good walking AB. Marilyn Demerest Button.. "But art is about aristocracy and subversion. in which she's not as modest as she's frequently portrayed to be. a day on which words must give way to images.C. the classic misreader. "It was not the first time I had been guilty of a misapprehension".AB: Yes I think so. There are nymphs and there is wine. Tragic. A Misalliance (1986).. In what constitutes a prohibition on honesty. 1. Maybe it makes the best gift. was a way out or a way in. Check this gem: Anita Brookner is an eminently successful woman… In spite of such achievements the dominant note in her life is the sense of personal inadequacy – a quality she projects into her heroines lives. My favourite Brookner's By popular demand. She could not now decide whether a library. Undue Influence (1999). with low self worth. a way out of daily life which contained too much confusion and weariness.

Nice representations of the academy. and walked out into the street. Because it's Clara's favourite. smoothed the leather of my conqueror's boots against the calves of my legs. Katy. The Next Big Thing (2002).. "Don't let the cat out!" 9. slammed the door of my flat. deep. in all innocence. Very smart and funny. Julia is excellent.And all this just in the first chapter. I armed myself with courage. or what acts as the figure of the contemporary. that smelt finer to her than the most recondite scents. A Friend from England (1987). I like Julius. with it i felt cold. 6. Also hilarious. Great minor characters and analysis of youth . incorporeal. my face haughty with disapproval".in to silent communion with true achievement. couched in beautiful characters on paper. Fraud (1992). as if the place were of no consequence to me. 8. Brief Lives (1990). 12. striking and iconic. Smart. 5. "From the window all that could be seen was a receding area of grey". Providence (1982). the dearest place on earth to me at that moment. Hello!! What is going on here?! 7. Great motifs and intertextuality. . A Private View (1994). "This was a day in which nothing was supposed to happen". or should i say. The classic. There is gay Steve. 10. Quite bizarre. a bully. Dorothea is a cracker. I nurtured it as if it were a sacred flame. Close to my heart for family reasons but i like the 2 families she establishes. 4. Dedicated to Melbourne's own Carmen Callil (born the day before AB). Hotel du Lac (1984). The youthful favourite. Also great on the youth character. Very smart. And while my victim. a brute. Latecomers (1988). With it I could commit murder.. "Plenty of calories in whiskey". sought out my finest clothes. Visitors (1997). hard. sat at a table in some dingy apartment. 11.. Love was to have been the answer. Also hilarious. discarnate. waiting for her prospective mother-in-law to serve her with a plate of soup. simple.something AB excels at. Without it I would have felt enormously at risk. a talisman that would protect me throughout this journey into the unknown." <-. i'm not really sure why. neat. "It was the anger that saved me..

What about favourite TV shows? . 21. for one. 24. The medical library context. I've only read it once. Good title. 19. 20. A Family Romance (1993). The Rules of Engagement (2003). A Closed Eye (1991). 17. Dr ? in Mick Brown's relatively great interview of 2009. Why *do* the characters have the same name? I should revisit this one re female friendships. Documentation so far consists of yogurt and fruit (spotted by a stalker at Sainsburys) and "a small jar of Marmite and slimming biscuits" (Limits?) as reported by a former student of Brookner's from the Courtauld. Leaving Home (2005). The Bay of Angels (2000). I recall an interview where Carmen Cahlil mentions that AB would book a great local French restaurant. Sad. Strangers (2009).13. "An underfictionalised topic" as AB puts it. It's difficult. or every night last week. Most of Brookner's interviews hail from the 80s (the 1980s) so questions differ from those of contemporary brunch media. which might interrogate last night's menu. Look at Me (1983). 14. A Start in Life (1980). Lewis Percy (1989). Altered States (1996). I like the narrative voice. almost tricky. Pathos. Very intelligent. Incidents at the rue Laugier (1995). Something about brie? 22. 16. 15. There you go. Epigraph / title = homage to James. Good on feminism. Questions for Brookner It's funny how often Brookner is accused of repetition. For Ruth. Family and Friends (1985).the late 90s was peak AB. and always pick up the bill. I. would really like to know what she ate for dinner last night. 23. Tangentially. 18. This confirms what i suspected: "the middle period" gets my "box set" vote . Something about the Phd on garden design gets me in.

combined with the way she crafts her observations . Brookner has been stereotyped as boring. Romanticism and the avant garde. the way in which they exemplify literary realism. These criticisms allude to what i call the "nineteenth-century effect" of her fiction. and how she reads this in a broader context of aesthetic production.her ability to see through convention and delusion. My contention is that the interpretation of the cultural text of “Anita Brookner” hangs on the reading of the nineteenth-century effect. aesthetic production) and historical status with the figuration of desire.Magazines? Is it true she doesn't have a computer? An email account? For now i'd like to ask her to comment on the relationship between "the outsider" (or the exile. Read Brookner's reviews in The Spectator There's something about the reviews AB writes . . and most of all their hidden subtexts. a term with which she seems allied) and "the family". Brooknerines are outsiders with enmeshed relationships to the family. In popular and critical worlds.that makes them seem even more creative than her fiction. old-fashioned and unsexy. My Project .Recent Articulations Anita Brookner is a French Romantic art historian and a contemporary British novelist. I take my methodological impetus from the queering of the nineteenth century and queer theories of performativity and “crossing”. Generally Brookner's reviews are much more interesting that the text she's reviewing. make them seem more significant as critical objects as opposed to merely just pleasurable reading. The heterochronic organisation of the oedipal narrative constructing the author-subject means that readings of the nineteenth-century effect as a signifier of Brookner’s personal and sexual failure have dominated criticism of Brookner’s novels. The production of the nineteenth-century effect reflects the simultaneous regulation of representational status (discursivity. intelligibility. This might be because the length of the novels. I'd like AB to comment on ways in which she understands the connection between the family and the outsider.

And the Brookner repetition. There are flashes of A Misalliance. I love that line about her drinking when she says something like "you won't see my winding around a lamp-post with a riotous hat over one eye" (totally paraphrasing there). to the suggestion of a “structural fault” in Brookner’s narrative and reflect the way in which Brookner transgresses normative expectations. those words don't seem .i think her first. Funny.. There's a new lightness about Strangers. but it's kind of true. I feel like it barely draws any attention to itself as a representational medium. I recall Brookner writing about this mother . In the Times Literary Supplement David Plante remarked on a deep sense of “unreality” pervading the narrative: “When one reads of Heather tucking a rug around Rachel’s legs in the car. A Misalliance cracks me up though. One favourite line so far: "He was depressed by the state of the weather. I know. The first thing that struck me was her Author's Note .” Plante’s comment demonstrates how age is used as a discursive vehicle for the regulation of gender normativity in Brookner criticism.The Spectator seem to allow you read her current reviews here. It's confronting reading Brookner." (pg 51). hardly older. one wonders if a young woman of twenty-seven would do that for another young woman. his response inversely represents the two main female protagonists in a lesbian scene. Strangers made me think all the Romantics had contentious relationships with their mothers ie that's what Romantic longing is . At the same time. There's more dialogue than usual too. Anyway. A Friend from England was not a popular success. Then the epigraph by Freud. I digress. pathological” character of Rachel. i think it's so funny.New! Corny header. Familiars . Represented as ““one of Brookner’s most painful novels” (Fisher-Wirth). he reminded himself).. Blanche is to die for. Criticisms ranged from a widespread dislike of the “monstrous. mostly because I relate to her characters so strongly. as all those who had little contact with nature (now known as the environment.son dynamic with the Family a Freudian (possibly reductive) context anyway. even in England.

(p90). I believe Brookner was referring to Look At Me in this 2002 interview in The Independent when she said. find instruction and even corroboration in writers who. miraculously. why don't Brooknerines read Brookner? (ie the authentic. Maybe I needed to write them. seemed neither afraid nor ashamed to reveal their inadequacies. Unless.has been a dominant influence on readings of Brookner. for an understanding of his own life. seek consolation among the stacks. They're the text created about the author and her work by the media and publisher in book reviews and author interviews . I think it's brilliant and personally tragic and quite raw. fictional Brooknerines. their disappointments. useful and instructive on matters of go together.. not us wannabe Brooknerines). and whose very failures went some way to strengthen him in his long search for a fellow spirit. While the distinction between book reviews." (When asked. Emo? He would go to the London Library. in the absence of such a spirit. and. In my research I've discovered that the Brookner "paratext" . ugh. I think they're crap.") Criticisms of Brookner Criticisms of Brookner are insightful insofar as they i) generate an epistemology of the Brookner text and ii) reflect contemporary expectations of text. As a result I've been particularly interested in Brookner reviews and interviews. I have an idea to blog about the spectrum of criticism that . "I hate those early novels. "Has she a favourite among her works?" She replied. I remember one funny review of Brookner which asked." That's incredible because it was one of Brookner's most despised. "I don't like any of them very much. at times it is also artificial and so lately i've been less keen to maintain a formal division in my readings of Brookner. A paradox. context and reader. take out books that he had read before and would read again. they're introspective and they lead to no revelations. Paul Sturgis of Strangers is a reader protagonist.. Brookner renaissance Brookner's third novel Look At Me (1983) is on The Guardian's list of "1000 novels everyone must read. Oo the Wannabe Brooknerine.. interviews and academic criticism has been necessary.

Brookner Bashing. disorganised and inconsequential passages of Claire's selfanalysis and speculation. And in 2001 she told The Observer that failure was "much more interesting than success. Lindsay Duiguid..291. Effect on Readers. "I'm interested in the reasons for failure.” Times Literary . August 24-30. 1990. Middlebrow. gay or closeted. which i'll set out below and provide some examples. On The Next Big Thing (2003) (Making Things Better in the US). for the first 243 of these 275 pages nothing much happens. For now i've focused on the reviews but I may involve the other genres of criticism at a later stage. “Writing for the tortoise market. For example "lonely" is a polite way of saying not sexually active. Repetitive/Boring.. Although only 220 pages long. Privilege. Brief Lives is virtually plotless. 109. “The downward drag and the loss of allure.characterises Brookner reception. Autobiographical." Cataloging Criticism I've divided criticisms into the following categories: Plotless. Depressing. of ambiguous sexual identification. I've divided the criticisms into a number of categories.” Times Literary Supplement. its wispy story sabotaged by lengthy. I've chosen to represent generally negative criticisms because they're more interesting and they have been most influential in producing the dominant signification of Brookner.” The Atlantic Monthly Vol. Elizabeth Judd. 889. Joyce Carol Oates. Strangeness. On Brief Lives (1990). Time. Age. Genre crossing. Unethical writing. Iss 3. Sex is an interesting case because it's generally dissimulated through every other topic. April 2003. The Brooknerine (Brookner's protagonists). Plotless Like most of her novels. Place. a heterosexual failure. it seems padded and interminable. Declining standard. The 19th Century Influence. Anita Brookner has purged her novels of nearly all incident. Categories to add: Sex. creating a kind of anti-plot." Brookner said in a Publisher's Weekly interview in 1985. I have a vague plan to develop some informal reflections on each criticism in individual posts. Misc. Jamesian. “Making Things Better.

12. New York Times Book Review. On A Private View (1994) audio recording. 1999. May 27 2001.128 Iss. Last June. Nov/Dec 2002. the London Review of Books' assessment began as follows: "Anita Brookner's first novel appeared in 1981. “Family Plot”. 145. Nicholas Clee. Many early admirers have come to feel. July 2003.” Times Literary Supplement. Joyce Carol Oates. Since then she has published it again. On A Private View (1994). So we are left with a baffling question: why would a writer of Brookner's sophistication and intelligence repeat herself in this obvious fashion? Angeline Goreau. April 1. 6. 19.” Library Journal. Paul Gray. reviews eventually weary of them. And Brookner stands guilty of being astonishingly productive. On Undue Influence (1999)..” Library Journal. as her novels appear punctually year by year. An event such as a visit to a restaurant arrives like an oasis. unfortunately there is little that is new or original in Undue Influence. 22. the time . 22. v122. 1999. Rochelle Ratner. 85. Repetitive / Boring Brookner’s tale may have benefited from abridgment as there is much repetition and superfluous detail here. 1997.. Such are the perils of prolific authors. 145. situations and plots to express them. “Writing for the tortoise market. On Undue Influence (1999).. There is but one halfpennyworth of showing to an intolerable amount of telling in Anita Brookner's new novel. Obsessional themes need not result in repetitive fictions.Supplement.. June 17 1994. 19. “The Next Big Thing. much like the protagonist's life. Jacqueline Seewald. the loneliest moment you have ever had.. “Closed circuit. On The Next Big Thing (2003) audio recording (Making Things Better in the US). July 30.. Depressing Think of the most humiliating thing that has ever happened to you. Vol.” Times Literary Supplement. There is much to bore a listener here. if the writer can invent reasonably new characters.” The New Leader. 44. slightly altered. almost every year". “Understated Outrage at Growing Old. July 30. “Private View. when the British edition of this book was published. that Brookner is writing the same book over and over again.n6.

“That happened to me once too”…Think positively. I used to think Brookner was a genius. Heather Mallick. . Nobody likes dopey hangdog people who bring homemade quiches to sex trysts… Take my advice. Take up a hobby. 7. she does look like a bit of a fool. “Melancholia in Maida Vale. 1983. “Lovers and other dangers”. Go shopping. 17. Quit moping. Her novels are almost unbearable in their unflinching examination of isolation and disappointment. go to cafes and say in a sprightly manner to the person at the next table. 27 March. 1992. August 21. Buy a television machine and watch some lovely humorous comedy programs. “A Cinderella’s loneliness. “Depressive tale lacks substance. As someone advised me once. 14 September 1984. “Depressive tale lacks substance. “Drawing-room despair. David Allen. September 6. Heather Mallick. Candice Rodd.” Toronto Sun. Enough of this literary dawdling. Barbara Hardy. 1019.” Times Literary Supplement. Get out of the house. 1999. Too well-behaved for a full-blown nervous breakdown. September have thought yourself ugliest and most unloved. On Falling Slowly (1998). The Australian. On Look at Me (1983). Brookner bashing We… perhaps begin to long… for someone to give her characters a good shaking and a sensible talking to. On Hotel du Lac (1984). 19 October 1996. but now I just want to kick her in the shins. “Failing females”.” New York Times Book Review. Look at Me will remind you precisely how it felt.(Brookner’s protagonists) Why does the extraordinarily successful Anita Brookner write popular novels about women who are failures? Sally Blakeney.” The Observer.” Toronto Sun. Hermione Lee. 26 September 1998.” Times Literary Supplement. 1998. 1998. On Falling Slowly (1998). Jan 31. “The Stifled Life. The Brooknerine. Claire Messud. 32. for heaven’s sake. The Australian. On Falling Slowly (1998).

mentions no political events. naturally. it’s cold outside.” The Spectator. As for that 'willingness to talk'. 11 July 1994. ‘always’) leads to absurdity. Jan Zita Grover. 1019. one wonders if a young woman of twentyseven would do that for another young woman. Caroline Moore. On Leaving Home (1995). “Alone again. 1988. Vol. “Small expectations: Anita Brookner’s Novels. 38. Age There is something unresolved about their ages. 39. 2001. gives no dates. April 7-8. The use of century rather than of place or era as a point of reference is paralleled in Brookner’s fiction by her characters’ peculiar ahistoricity. Time It is almost a novel written out of time. 14 September 1984. “They Won Their Life on the Football Pools”. “Baby. Barbara Hardy. (General review). Brookner muffles the outside world. On The Bay of Angels (2001). London: Feb 19. 11:10.” Times Literary Supplement. Brookner’s characters occupy only the vaguest of times and places. General review.” The Women’s Review of Books. 23 August 1992. Gillian Tindall. 9211. When one reads of Heather tucking a rug around Rachel's legs in the car.” Independent on Sunday. hardly older. Sec 7 March 20. “A Cinderella’s loneliness. 11:10. “Fraud. David Plante. Iss. 2005. Self-pity (‘alone’. not even the name of a contemporary novel or play gives a sense of time. even in England. The New York Times Book Review. the mind boggles. 9. On A Friend from England (1987). “Safe sorrow. 1998.” The Weekend Australian. . 11 July 1994.” The Women’s Review of Books.” Times Literary Supplement.297. Jan Dalley. On Falling Slowly (1998). Jan Zita Grover. On Hotel du Lac (1984). Brenda Niall. No selfconscious older woman could possibly 'welcome' the notion that an unknown and naked young man might wake to find her spying on him. On Fraud (1992). “Small expectations: Anita Brookner’s Novels. R15. 39.The desire to kick Anita Brookner’s heroines is always strong. 23. July 10.

1998. Brookner's characters are only radically dull. Agreeably middlebrow writing David Allen. August 29.” New Statesman. parks and libraries are named. v212.. On A Private View (1994). although actual squares. Middlebrow (include non-subversive) Nostalgia for respectable bourgeois customs is a great appeal in Brookner's novels. Sven Birkerts.. On A Private View (1994). The New Republic. 1995. department stores.n17 April 24.. 23.. avenues. we are nowhere so much as in Brooknerland. Oct 15. Patricia Craig. “The Bay of Angels. some time in the 1950s. “They Won Their Life on the Football Pools”. But seek not for it on street maps. July 10. is that James's characters are radically innocent. “Safe sorrow. Brookner's London is an alternative version that bears only a partial and deceptive resemblance to the real city. David Plante. “Private View”. Jamesian The difference between Brookner and James. Anita Brookner’s 20th novel is set in London and southern France. On The Bay of Angels (2001). The 19th Century Influence Brookner’s protagonists are endowed with the formality and asperity of a nineteenth-century heroine.n17 April 24. 932.Place Brooknerland… is confined mainly to London. The New Republic. 1997. “Private View”. Essentially. Gillian Tindall. Sec 7 March 20. 41. 41.” Times Literary Supplement. v212. “On not being overwhelmed. 14. Sven Birkerts. Anita Brookner's novels are expert copies of nineteenth-century novels. 2001. 56. 1986. “British values under scrutiny”.” Times Literary Supplement. The New York Times Book Review. it is very unEnglish. with an important outpost in Paris and smaller ones in other European cities. Lisa Allardice. On A Misalliance (1986). one suddenly realises. 1988. 9. The Australian. 678. . But in fact. 8 November. 1995.

Brookner has a strange relish for humiliating her heroines.” Library Journal. Alison Light. “Dolly”. almost self-pitying prose in Providence . v241. “The Mistress of Gloom.30. 6. inhabit a contained world of exquisitely decorated rooms and quiet libraries. Caste rather than class feelings animate them. On Hotel du Lac (1984).n4 October 15.Privilege The real fear in the heroines' lives is not to be found loveless but classless. 123.n47 November 21. “A Private View. Her protagonist is again one of those generally passive people. 1994. “A Cinderella’s loneliness. The New York Times. Autobiographical There are patches of sentimental. tells us a great deal more about Brookner herself than most of her exquisitely limned characters. 33. There is no real mystery in a Brookner novel. obsessed by money while continually denying its importance. Jun 2001.n260. On The Bay of Angels (2001). 1019. the vagaries of the vulgar are displayed in orer to distance the heroines from them. 68. “Books of the Times”. July 9. Booklist 90. Donna Seaman. On Providence (1982).” Publisher’s Weekly. 152. Miranda Seymour.a young. 395.. . “Falling Slowly. Authorless review. On A Private View (1994). December 1998. and circumspect woman who eventually becomes a children's author. 107. On A Family Romance (1993). Unethical writing Her author is cruel. 1984. Jane . 1993. 6. On A Family Romance (1993) (Dolly in the US). 287. C 1 February. 1993. On Falling Slowly (1998). Michiko Kakutani. “A Family Romance. with civilised manners and quaint ways of speaking.” Times Literary Supplement. solitary. People (usually women) in good clothes. who suddenly is moved to examine the unlived life.” The Atlantic Monthly.” New Statesman & Society. 14 September 1984. Barbara Hardy.the result of the author's almost total identification with her heroine. The materialists are always other people. constantly examining their emotional landscapes.Brookner's narrator . Barbara Love.. well provided with money and leisure time.

“Alone. 2001. 41. 7 April. Genre crossing Fraud is less a novel than an examination of literary conscience. Merle Rubin. 76. As a reader it means being in the company of desperately unhappy people. 1999.” The Saturday Age. i wish now that Brookner would try again the larger canvas of Family and Friends. Declining standard Despite the sharp. engaging portraits of unhappy women. R15. Brian McFarlane. “Recent Fiction. On Visitors (1997). 1.Effect on Readers Readers who've found many of Ms Brookner's characters downright maddening in their capacity for hitting upon ways to stay lonely. Wall Street Journal Leisure & Arts. all alone with Anita Brookner… again”.” Illustrated London News. 2001. “Don’t just do it. I confess to approaching her short novels with a certain degree of hesitation. a few novels back. Ron Charles. Jan 17. On A Friend from England (1987). On The Bay of Angels (2001). 17. depressed and miserable may very well lose patience with this novel. Sally Emerson. 1988-89. Christian Science Monitor. Brenda Niall. “A small. Jan 20.” The Hudson Review. Look at Me or Family and Friends with wonder and some regret. Strangeness A strange and disturbing book. Those of us who have bought and read all 17 of her books look back to the youthful. . On A Start in Life (1980).” The Weekend Australian. 47. v126 n4345 August 1. tenacious addiction to life. April 7-8. “Alone again. “The Search for a Suitable Suitor”. Alice Bloom. flashing emotion and stormy passages of Providence.” New Statesman. “A Friend from England. 1997. Less and less is happening in Brookner's novels. naturally. 2000. August 1981. Strangely static. E11. whose understanding of their unhappiness is chillingly accurate. On The Bay of Angels (2001). have a good think about it. 544. Maggie Gee. that chronicled a large family (the men of it too) over many years. Strangely devoid of friends.

Maggie Gee. her narrative then traces Heather's marriage break-up. An author flirting with self-parody. the Livingstones perceive Rachel as a "feminist" and someone who might coax Heather out of her perceived passivity. After Rachel "outs" Michael in a gay bar. Rachel recalls a period of time defined by her complicated responses to the personal decisions made by the "striking" Heather Livingstone. Heather's return to Italy and subsequent engagement to an Italian. Conversely. On A Private View (1994). have a good think about it. The Plot Summary . Nicholas Clee. On Visitors (1997). A curious inversion of stream-of-consciousness. trip to Italy. “Fraud”. Smith. More of a character study than a conventional novel. “Closed circuit. Following the death of her father years previously. 22. On Fraud (1992). Rachel notices a change in Heather which culminates in Heather's announcement of her engagement to Michael Sandberg.” Times Literary Supplement. wedding and her return to London following her honeymoon. Heather's mother's illness.Authorless review. Rachel's narrative follows Heather's engagement party. 21. 83. Literature & History paper . “Learnt from Life. v126 n4345 August 1. 32-year-old Londoner and a partner in a bookshop. Finally Rachel travels to Venice to attempt to persuade Heather to return to England. the debilitating effects of her hydrophobia and comments on the contemporary experience of women. is a single. May 30 1997. On a number of occasions. Throughout the narrative Rachel emphasises her "extensive" sexual experience. Time Magazine v141.A Friend from England (1987) A Friend from England (1987) The narrator of A Friend from England. On Visitors (1997). While socialising with the Livingstone family. Set in the 1980s. 1997. N6 (Feb 8. 1993). Sarah A.” New Statesman. Rachel idealises the Livingstones as an image of a "Victorian" family and is simultaneously fascinated and alienated by their material and emotional security.” Times Literary Supplement. Rachel Kennedy. June 17 1994. Rachel inherits Heather's father Oscar as her accountant and is befriended by the Livingstone family. “Don’t just do it. Rachel confronts Heather about her behaviour and tries to influence her decisions. 47.

Within Fay’s narrative are a number of scenes in which Julia – now retired . Despite some popular acclaim – such as winning the Booker prize for Hotel du Lac in 1984 – Brookner has been neglected by critical disciplines. Brookner has written 23 novels. But at the same time it is a narrative of what Fay calls her “thraldom” to Julia.” And . Critics found BL “depressing”. Cheryl Malcolm Alexander warns.Today I am discussing Anita Brookner’s 10th novel.was also a performer. “reinforcing her ascendancy” in front of a small group of acolytes. of less renown. repetitive and old-fashioned. In “Understanding AB”. the death of her husband and her mother. which I suggest can be interpreted as a mode of performative behaviour. single woman and this has not stimulated the critical imagination. 8 biographical studies of Romantic art criticism and numerous essays on art. BL is a novel about a former actress. Brookner defines Romanticism as a form of behaviour. and use it in conjunction with an intertextual analysis to provide an alternative reading to the dominant Brookner stereotype. and that she was in fact rather dull and uninteresting. their holidays in Nice. The story opens with Fay reading about Julia’s death at age 85. a woman with an “unforgettable stage presence. she has been stereotyped as a lonely. that Julia found her boring. getting married and meeting Julia. “painful to read” and “virtually plotless. This triggers Fay’s memories of growing up.” It’s narrator Fay Dodworth – or Faded Worth as one reviewer pointed out . iconic Julia Morton. In my PhD I take the idea of performative Romanticism. Accused of being boring. and it reflects her obsession with both Julia’s “monstrous power” and her striking beauty. discernible in narrative behaviour.holds court in the drawing-room of her West London residence. the strikingly beautiful. and her representations of Julia as a “cult object” are interspersed with other recollections. Fay emphasises that neither she nor Julia really liked each other. first published in 1990. literature and history. Brookner’s particular location in the genre of women’s writing denies the avant-garde readings that her connections to fin-desiecle Aestheticism might otherwise invoke. I believe Brookner’s work precipitates a crisis of interpretation as a result of its historical and generic crossings and their impact on representations of gender and sexuality. Brief Lives.” A common complaint was that the content contradicted the title. “a cheerless read”. her affair with Julia’s husband and his death and her relationship with Julia and their small circle of acquaintances. In her art criticism. “The title may at first appear to be a misnomer… The brevity to which the title refers would seem to have more to do with the periods of happiness these characters enjoy.

Her contention was that “understatement and the supplying of seemingly inconsequential information are common features of Brookner’s writing. In the Hudson Review.” Alexander claims that Fay’s narrative was “speculative at best” and registers a range of “wholly inconsequential and everyday scenes” in the text. 128) to extemporary narrative techniques. They include her dresser Pearl. Fay extensively documents Julia’s hard sexy mannerisms (3). a “journalist” turned dogsbody Maureen. Julia is found in an ultramarine satin nightgown exposing “an expanse of white shoulder… in its way perfect. “I remember at the time I went to the hairdresser’s” to observational detail: “through the window a tiny silver plane was a point of brilliance in a cloudless light blue sky” (BL. “the narrator’s monumental gloom makes you wish certain lives in Brief Lives were briefer”. remarkable by any standards”. “Getting dressed was the most important part of Julia’s day. 178). 133). adding that Julia preferred “the artificial climate of her dressing-room rather than anything more natural or more variable.” Fay reports. for example. 80) or “I was too uninteresting to be eligible” (BL. The dressing-room mobilises a cast of assistants and in Brief Lives these roles are performed by both Julia’s entourage and her audience.according to The New York Times. Julia’s mother “perhaps the most perfect audience of all” and Fay “a secondary audience.and her aquiline beauty.necessitating custom made shoes . Inger Bjorkman calls the narrator “absurd”. On one particularly shocking occasion. Tom Wilhelmus notes that the narrator’s “tone” manages “to hide everything – including some very scandalous activity. put it down” (BL.” Julia’s histrionics are primarily staged in the drawing-room of her Onslow Square residence. a matinee audience”. Attention turned to the first person narrator. her strikingly tall slim body (3) her “beautiful eyelids”. In her book on Brookner’s later fiction. Representations of “the inconsequential” also form a key component of the narrator’s strategy of selfrepresentation: “My activities were completely inconsequential” (BL. she says. such as “I sat looking at the humming telephone.” It’s true that even by Brookner’s standards the levels of inconsequential detail in BL seem unusual and make it difficult to determine what information is significant. very quietly. and then. a room which itself resembles the dressing-room and a space which invokes the dandy’s toilette. These details range from banal comments. Fay’s . the narrowness of her feet .

Likewise these little maps can act as inserts to the novel. 107). And as a diseuse or “mimic” Julia personifies the dandy’s mode of performance.observation that Maureen “gave the impression of being sexually null. Julia’s deterioration is witnessed over a few short episodes. As another of the dandy’s performative modes. Following the loss of Pearl. her drawn features. Eating is produced as a mode of exchange between the two women and discourses of consumption are interwoven with those of desire in BL. since she devoted no thought to her hair and clothes” (BL. This eroticisation of consumption enables the reading of Fay’s menus as small love poems to Julia. Fay’s narrative refers to over 20 sites around London. As a professional singer and radio performer. another type of jewel is lost and destroyed. 144) indicates that the narrator’s focus on the dressing of her main subject is invested with an erotic significance. with her gifts of tongue. Fay’s elegant menus and the delicate combination of textures. Inevitably arriving at Julia’s with a gift.” Fay travels the streets to attend Julia’s in-house performances. 64. reconstituting the text in an intertextual reference to Aubrey’s “paper museums. Fay arrives at Onslow Sq and is “disproportionately shocked” to find Julia wearing only one earring. lay rights for her claims to service and propel the narrator’s movement through her local environment as she dispenses with various errands. of fruit tart and hothouse peach and madiera cake (BL. By mapping these sites you can see a visual representation of the space Fay’s narrative traverses or the brevity of the late Romantic experience. Fay notices an octave drop in Julia’s voice. rendering traces of the city that reflect the Baudelairean ephemerality of modern life that is conjured by the brevity of novel’s title. talking is thematically and technically emphasised in Brief Lives. . Pearl and signalling the dissolution of components of the toilette and audience. an untouched whiskey – all coinciding with the departure of her dresser. identifies her through the “fading” of words that Purdon claimed for Aubrey was constitutive of the brief life of oral narratives. Firstly. Fay’s offerings become occasions for Julia’s adjudicating views on taste. Fay had an oral vocation. flavours and quantities they evoke are crafted to effect an aesthetic experience. Julia is a “cult object” to the narrator and so frequent references to Julia’s diet of omelettes and whiskey both imbues it with cult status and reveals the heightened importance the narrator attributes to food and eating. The name of the narrator Fay Dodworth.

disarranging Fay’s hair and ripping her blouse. By looking at the meaning of “the detail” in 19thc texts. I attempt to read the text across historical temporalities and therefore to complicate the way in which Brookner has been produced as a contemporary novelist.a reflection of the dereliction of Julia’s standards of dressing. At this stage Julia grabs hold of Fay. “Is he coming to dinner?” Boiling with discomfort. The novel begins with Fay reflecting on Julia’s death and ends with Julia’s voice inviting Fay to join her.crushing the jewel . Fay notices that she might have been “imagining a decay of which there was no trace” (BL. yet the slow foot brushes over it. then. when Julia leaves for Spain. She drops the terrine. Fay lowers Julia into the sweet-smelling bath. This ephemeral endurance of the dandy complements the status of ruins for antiquarians such as John Aubrey. either falling or pretending to fall. 162) Fay about the (non-existent) sexual status of her relationship with Dr Alan Carter. 203) and Julia departs looking “exceedingly chic” (BL . crushing Julia . Incapable of procuring her desired response. Trembling. “Have you been to bed with him yet?” she pries. This provides the catalyst for the end of her thraldom to Julia. At this stage things both start to unravel and to come together. Over the course of these disturbing events. where Julia continues her interrogation. Fay apprehends a gleam by Julia’s narrow left foot and raises an alert. Julia begins “tormenting” (BL. 164) disappointing (BL. Thus in BL the even the dandy’s fall and ruination is problematised. She rushes to Onslow Sq. a ruined kitchen and a ruined evening. However. 164) and cruel (BL. sending a spray of carrot mousse across the floor and greets Carter with a ruined blouse. In the abstract of this paper I pose the question of whether it is possible to read a contemporary novel as a 19th century text. before Fay returns home to finish preparing dinner. . The two women are left arm-in-arm in mutual states of undress. 210) in a light grey suit with a fur coat over her arm. But her state of disarray prevents this from happening.into the carpet. Fay is preparing dinner for Alan Carter. informing her that she and Carter might go away for a weekend. when she is summoned by Julia. 174). Julia transfers the subject of her eroticised discourse onto discourses of consumption. Fay is forced to extend the invitation to Alan that has effectively been masterminded by Julia. (BL. simultaneously undressing before Fay to “reveal the lingerie of a cocotte”. a GP described as rude. and reading Brookner’s novel through the figure of the dandy.

1987 I first got to know Oscar Livingstone in fairly humdrum circumstances. 1988 Hartmann. then placed a square of bitter chocolate on his tongue. Despite the fact that I often have certain Brookner expressions run through my mind. London: Jonathan Cape. 1986 Blanche Vernon occupied her time most usefully in keeping feelings at bay. 5. 1983 Once a thing is known it can never be unknown. London: Jonathan Cape. 8. 9. London: Jonathan Cape. London: Jonathan Cape. 2. Look at Me. 1989 Madame Doche. A Start in Life. pronounced it to be good. in a wedding photograph. 7. Providence. I assume it is a wedding. or I find myself quoting Brookner to explain an experience rather than coming up with my own words (why reinvent the wheel?).Brookner's "First Lines" My sister can quote the opening sentence of a number of her favourite novels. although the bride and groom are absent. and ushered him into the salon. 6. 4. 3. A Friend from England. at forty. 1984 From the window all that could be seen was a receding area of grey. London: Jonathan Cape. Hotel du Lac. at least. Family and Friends. lit his first cigarette. while it was the one I'm currently working on. Lewis Percy. 1985 Here is Sofka. London: Jonathan Cape. lowered a spoonful of brown sugar crystals into his coffee cup. took the camembert from Lewis Percy. A Misalliance. knew that her life had be ruined by literature. 1982 Kitty Maule was difficult to place. prodded it with an expert thumb. a voluptuary. I could only recall the first line of Brookner's first novel . Latecomers. . 1. and. London: Jonathan Cape. London: Jonathan Cape. London: Jonathan Cape. So i decided to write them out here. 1981 Dr Weiss. with an air of appreciation no less generous for being regularly at her command.

2001 I read the Blue Fairy Book. sighed a lot. 1990 Julia died. 12. 17. 20. London: Jonathan Cape. 1996 The woman on the station platform had her back to me. in the sun. London: Jonathan Cape. 13. 1999 It is my conviction that everyone is profoundly eccentric. and the stories of Hans Andersen. London: Viking. and Charles Perrault. 18. Incidents in the Rue Laugier. the Brothers Grimm. 1997 Towards evening the oppressive heat was tempered by a slight breeze. Mrs Eldon. although this merely served to power drifts and eddies of a warmth almost tropical in its intensity. London: Jonathan Cape. London: Jonathan Cape. (she wrote). 1992 The facts. London: Jonathan Cape. (Dolly in the US) I thought of her as the aunt rather than as my aunt. who still thought of herself as Miriam Sharpe. Altered States. 22. London: Jonathan Cape. London: Viking. 2003 . 1994 George Bland. 1995 My mother read a lot. London: Jonathan Cape. 15. 21. A Private View. 2002. paused as usual to examine the pictures in the windows of the Duke Street galleries. London: Jonathan Cape. Undue Influence. London: Viking. London: Viking. 1991 'My dear Lizzie'. or attachment. Brief Lives. left him excited and impressed. A Closed Eye. as far as they could be ascertained. A Family Romance. London: Viking. 1993. and went to bed early. 11. The Next Big Thing. Visitors. The Bay of Angels. when he awoke into a night that was still black. 16. 1998 On her way to the London Library. the Yellow Fairy Book. were as follows. Fraud. 19. 14. reflected that now was the moment to take stock. for anything more intimate would have implied appropriation. (Making Things Better in the US) Herz had a dream which. The Rules of Engagement.10. Falling Slowly.

That is. For the Brooknerine. ! The Brookner Walks Project Brooknerines are walking protagonists. It has therapeutical benefits. it makes no mental demands on the walker but can stimulate thought and bring clarity. Walking allows the subject to observe the world and participate in public space while simultaneously being a solitary practice. London: Viking. Leaving Home. walking is a mode of transport.. 23. the main protagonist of a Brookner novel usually embraces walking as a personal practice. 2005 Argh! I've lent it to a friend. a form of physical exercise and a way of passing time. and became friends of a sort. ..We met. Walking locates the Brooknerine in a contemporary chronotope (time / space context). by virtue of the fact that we started school on the same day.