Just as it will sometimes happen that a critic feels obliged to preface a review with a declaration of interest, so I should now declare a lack of interest.
There came a moment, very early in my reading of the latest volume of Christopher Isherwood’s Diaries, when a spell was broken. The relevant entry, written at his beach home in Santa Monica, California, was dated 12 November 1960. And the single, throwaway notation which caused me to re-evaluate, I fear definitively, my admiration for Isherwood ran as follows: ‘Tonight I have to take the Mishimas out to supper.’
The opening paragraph of Duchess of Death’s fourth chapter, in which its subject is about to have her first whodunit published, begins thus:
Robert Coover’s Noir is a graphic novel.
Just as there are people who are their own worst enemies, so there are books that are their own worst reviews.
Many years ago I invited a young student of mine to see Psycho, a film of which she had never heard, made by a director (Hitchcock) with whose name she was unfamiliar and shot in a format (black-and-white) whose apparent old-fashionedness so mystifed her she wondered aloud why no one thought to complain to the projectionist.
The Infinity of Lists by Umberto Eco, translated by Alastair McEwen
That very title prompted in me a little Proustian epiphany.
Was Agatha Christie a good writer? The American critic Edmund Wilson was one of the unhappy few who thought not.…