Tuesday, 24 July 2012

In the know about literary London

the book:

A Vicious Circle by Amanda Craig

published 1996




[Writer Adam is about to have his first novel published]

He wore tweed suits because he could buy them cheaply from the Sue Ryder shop. His Mayfair flat was rent-controlled, and had been acquired by pure luck. Yet these superficial details of his life were interpreted as the stuff of grandeur. The photograph they had chosen, of Adam in a silk dressing-gown (borrowed from Mabel downstairs), emphasized this. ‘It doesn’t look anything like you,’ Tom Viner remarked, when Adam showed him the results of the photographer’s wizardry with airbrush and lens. ‘I know. Nice if it did, though.’ ‘You should tell them you’re gay,’ Mary said. ‘Look, my mother doesn’t know that. Why should strangers?’ said Adam, waspishly. ‘Besides, if I come out now, I’ll sink into the ghetto. It’s like declaring yourself a feminist, or a Catholic or whatever because it means that everything you write becomes specific to that one aspect. There’s so much crap about coming out, and what they really do is shove you into an even smaller closet, full of blokes with loo-brushes on their upper lips. What I am is private.’



observations: Poor Adam – no good will come from any of this. He likes to think he writes like Fournier crossed with Huxley, while his agent says he’s more like Evelyn Waugh crossed with Nancy Mitford (which would be a much stronger recommendation on this blog). It’s not entirely clear how good a writer he’s meant to be.

This wonderful novel has just been reissued as an ebook, and if that in itself wasn’t enough of a good thing, it also features an afterword by Amanda Craig giving the full lowdown on the mysterious threatened libel action which almost scuppered the book just after it was written. No doubt everyone in literary London knew exactly what that was all about already, but those of us outside the charmed (or vicious) circle have always longed to know. The explanation is worth the money alone – but you’ll also get a really satisfying, engrossing book, following the lives of a large group of characters over several years in London. And then – oh happy day – you can find out that there is also 2009’s Hearts and Minds, just as good.

Links up with: Women in dressing gowns of various kinds,
here and Miss Marple here, and Jane Eyre has a suggestion for a dressing gown for Mr Rochester here.

The picture is by BM Kustodiev, is of a Russian architect called Isidore Samoilovich Zolotarevsky, and came from
Wikimedia Commons.


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