Imagining Characters: Six Conversations About Women Writers

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9780099591214: Imagining Characters: Six Conversations About Women Writers

In this innovative and wide-ranging book, Byatt and the psychoanalyst Ignes Sodre bring their different sensibilities to bear on six novels they have read and loved: Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Bronte's Villette, George Elliot's Daniel Deronda, Willa Cather's The Professor's House, Iris Murdoch's An Unofficial Rose, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. The results are nothing less than an education in the ways literature grips its readers and, at times, transforms their lives. Imagining Characters is indispensable, a work of criticism that returns us to the books it discusses with renewed respect and wonder.
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About the Author:

A. S. Byatt is famed for her short fiction, collected in Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, and The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. Her full-length novels include the Booker Prize-winning Possession and the trilogy sequence The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, and Babel Tower.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Two discriminating readers invite us to listen in on seven conversations about six important novels by women. Bestselling novelist Byatt and psychoanalyst Sodre cultivate the art of literary conversation. The underlying premise is that literature in general, and the novel in particular, is a unique and important form of knowledge that calls upon its readers to carry on its imaginary world in conversation and discussion. Both Sodre and Byatt are shrewd readers, as well as voluble conversationalists. However, in print the effects are mixed. Their conversations are shapeless, as conversation often is, and the reader only gradually begins to see the emphasis fall on certain themes and ideas that appeal to their imaginations: fear of marriage, the problem of womanly self-determination, the presence of myth and fairy tale, moral consciousness in fiction. These themes float by in the wash of words without ever taking a clear shape. And too often the language, as in real conversation, is woolly and inexact. But perhaps the most limiting circumstance of this book is the admirably sympathetic relationship between Byatt and Sodre. They are so like-minded that what we have is not a dialogue but instead a monologue in two-part harmony. They don't force each other to clarify, defend, and produce persuasive evidence for their views. These objections notwithstanding, there remains enough stimulating observation and thought to hold the attention of those interested in the authors' favorite books (Mansfield Park, Villette, Daniel Deronda, The Professor's House, An Unofficial Rose, and Beloved) or in the novel as a way of knowing the world. Or in Byatt's view--which is aligned with that of Iris Murdoch--``all art but the very greatest is consolation and fantasy, but really great art is a form of knowledge.'' Byatt and Sodre attempt to bring out the knowledge that resides in art alone. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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