Inscrutable Genius

Ivy: The Life of I. Compton-Burnett

by Hilary Spurling
Knopf, 621 pp., $22.95

Inscrutable as an owl, Ivy Compton-Burnett sits out on a limb of literature, singular, eccentric, and keeping herself to herself. “Her work…seems to encourage false generalizations…. Though easy to read, she is a hard writer to grasp,” wrote Mary McCarthy; and she went on to compare her to “a giant footprint or a flying saucer,” baffling her critics.

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The Right B.B. March 14, 1985