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Passions of the Mind: Selected Writingsby A S Byatt
Synopses & Reviews
Whether she is writing about George Eliot or Sylvia Plath; Victorian spiritual malaise or Toni Morrison; mythic strands in the novels of Iris Murdoch and Saul Bellow; politics behind the popularity of Barbara Pym or the ambitions that underlie her own fiction, Byatt manages to be challenging, entertaining, and unflinchingly committed to the alliance of literature and life.
"A. S. Byatt, author of Possession, is as fine an essayist as novelist, with a limitless range of interests. Whether discoursing on George Eliot or Georgette Heyer, Robert Browning or Van Gogh, she lures the reader with her relaxed, personal style. 'I was given The House in Paris by my father when I was quite a small child,' she confesses in her essay on Elizabeth Bowen, admitting that her father assumed it was an historical novel, and goes on to describe the book's effect on her at age ten. Toni Mornson's Beloved gave her nightmares, but she rates it 'an American masterpiece.' Georgette Heyer is 'a superlatively good writer of honourable escape,' but Byatt confesses that at boarding school she was dismissed from the Library Committee for having vetoed purchase of Hyer's books. Byatt observes that one of the 'central characteristics' of Barbara Pym's novels is malice, and wonders why Pym's work is given so much serious critical attention. Her essay on Monique Wittig's The Lesbian Body concludes with an admission that 'having written this review, I am liberated to read something else.' Byatt's provocative essays, free of the critic's tone of supercilious detachment, will stimulate the reader to return to works she discusses with such originality." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
Includes bibliographical references (p. -312) and index.
About the Author
A.S. Byatt is the author of the novels Possession (winner of the Booker Prize in 1990), The Game, and the sequence The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, and Babel Tower. She has also written two novellas, published together as Angels and Insects, and four collections of shorter works, including The Matisse Stories and The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. Educated at Cambridge, she was a senior lecturer in English at University College, London, before becoming a full-time writer in 1983. A distinguished critic as well as a novelist, she lives in London.
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