Cathleen Schine is an instinctively funny writer—not one of those who populate “Humor” sections in bookstores, with their demented determination to make you laugh, but a novelist of sustained light wit and great formal economy. Her scenes in her new novel are especially lean and staccato, everything counting, the dialogue concise and convincingly absurd.
a television series written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Stephen Frears
The major surprise of Jeremy Thorpe’s trial in 1979 for conspiracy to murder was his decision not to take the stand—it seems that his counsel, alert to his client’s histrionic tendencies, foresaw the dangers of Oscar Wilde–like showing-off and self-incrimination. No witnesses were called for the defense, and the narrative of events concerning Thorpe was entirely established by the prosecution: his affair, as a young MP in the early 1960s, with a stable hand and model named Norman Scott; Scott’s repeated attempts to go public with the story (all firmly smothered by the police as well as the press); and the subsequent conspiracy to murder Scott, who had become a threat not only to Thorpe but to the Liberal Party of which he was by then the leader. The defense’s case consisted simply of discrediting the prosecution’s witnesses.
by Henry Green, with an introduction by Daniel Mendelsohn
with an introduction by Adam Thirlwell
Henry Green’s novels, with their one-word titles and uniform dimensions, can create an impression of sameness, but anyone who reads just two of his books will find them to be wonderfully different. Doting (set in post–World War II London) is as unlike Loving (set in an Irish country house) as …
The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me: An Aristocratic Family, a High-Society Scandal and an Extraordinary Legacy
by Sofka Zinovieff
It was an oddity of growing up in the small Berkshire town of Faringdon in the 1950s that Lord Berners’s name was often mentioned. He was, in a way, a part of the landscape. A tall slender tower on a hill at the edge of the town was the goal …
by Penelope Fitzgerald, with an introduction by Alan Hollinghurst
Penelope Fitzgerald published her first book, a biography of the artist Edward Burne-Jones, when she was fifty-eight; her first novel appeared when she was sixty. She was, as she said, “an old writer who had never been a young one.”
Peter Carey is an astonishing capturer of likenesses—not only in the sense of the portrait (the “good likeness”), but of the teeming similitudes with which a sharp eye and a rich memory discern and describe the world. Simile and metaphor, which are at the heart of poetry, are a less certain presence in prose fiction, in some novelists barely deployed at all, but in Dickens, for instance (with whom Carey is repeatedly compared), they are vital and unresting elements of the novelist’s vision.
Michael Cunningham’s novels have tended to be airy, open structures, covering large spans of time and space. They are narrative experiments, multivoiced and wide-ranging, with a romantic sense of the adventure of the inner life and a brilliant eye for the details of the everyday world; it is not surprising …