A House of Air: Selected Writings

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9780007136421: A House of Air: Selected Writings

The previously uncollected occasional prose of a great English writer -- full of wit, feeling and illumination. 'Twice in your life you know that you are approved of by everyone: when you learn to walk and when you learn to read.' Surprising, wonderfully funny, definitive, this is a major collection of Penelope Fitzgerald's reviews, essays and autobiographical writings. Includes pieces on contemporary novelists Giles Foden, Anne Enright, Carol Shields, Rose Tremain, Roddy Doyle; on classic writers Muriel Spark, A.E. Housman, Rose Macaulay, M.R. James, Stevie Smith, Dorothy L. Sayers; on remembering her grandfather E.H. Shepard; on her love of Devon and Spain and William Morris; on writers in their old age; and witty and poignant recollections of her schooldays, her life on a Thames barge, her childhood in Hampstead and the ghost who lived next door but one. Includes an introduction by Hermione Lee

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About the Author:

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most distinctive voices in British literature. The prizewinning author of nine novels, three biographies, one collection of short stories, she died in 2000.

Review:

'This generous selection of essays, reviews, introductions and other occasional writings proves yet again that stylistically, intellectually and morally Fitzgerald couldn't put a foot wrong if she'd tried. Hers is an impeccable and unique voice not just from another century but another world.' Michael Dibdin, Books of the Year, Daily Telegraph 'Remarkable. It is the range of her scholarship that impresses.' Doris Lessing, Books of the Year, Daily Telegraph 'Of all the novelists in English of the last quarter-century, Penelope Fitzgerald has the most unarguable claim to greatness.' Philip Hensher, Spectator 'An intelligent writer, superbly and unfailingly so. Wise and funny, with a dry wit allied to a great emotional sympathy.' Sunday Times 'Elegant, perceptive and humane.' Joanna Trollope, Books of the Year, Observer 'Fitzgerald, who died in 2000, was a very English novelist -- quiet, restrained, precise. She admired those who eschewed "making too much of things," and her ideals were of the sort that, as she discerned, George Eliot esteemed: "work, steadiness, harmony, peace." The editors of this unusually intelligent and sensitively selected collection of her criticism have chosen mainly those pieces that explore the authors of the "books of her heart" -- mostly minor, often overlooked writers who were, as she lovingly describes E. M. Delafield, "accurate, calm, and lucid," and who composed books that could be considered "somber" if they "were less witty, and less deceptively mild." Taken as a whole, Fitzgerald's pieces on Delafield, Sylvia Townsend Warner, the Punch writers, Mrs. Oliphant (who excelled at what she called the "tragi-farce," a form Fitzgerald clearly loved), J. L. Carr, and Barbara Pym define a writerly sensibility of which Fitzgerald herself was, sadly, among the last adherents. This book is worth its price just for Fitzgerald's spot-on description of Pym's mordant vision of the distance between the sexes: "If men are less than angels, Barbara Pym's men are less than men, not wanting much more than constant attention and comfort. Their theses must be typed ... endless dinners cooked, remarks listened to ... and the forces of nature and society combine to ensure, even in the 1980s, that they get these things. Women see through them clearly enough, but are drawn toward them by their own need and a compassion which is entirely taken for granted."' Benjamin Schwartz, The Atlantic

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Fitzgerald, Penelope
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Penelope Fitzgerald
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