Saturday, July 26, 2008

The art of brevity

In his panegyric for Penelope Fitzgerald, reviewing a book of her letters, Julian Barnes certainly brings out some interesting points, but, boy does he go on, giving close on 5000 words to this renowned miniaturist of a novelist. I'm sure there's probably some kind of literary equation, where the shorter the books, the longer the critical encomiums. And some of it just seems silly. Surely his detailed story of travelling back to London with her from a reading in York is the least interesting literary anecdote that's ever been shared? I've not read Fitzgerald so I can't comment on her place in the rankings of our top novelists, and certainly, there's much in this review that makes one interested to read her, but perhaps a little too much. To be fair to Barnes, I've got enough of a sense of her personality from his piece, that had she been able to read it, she'd have seen how overblown it was. In future, perhaps, less is more?

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