- Alice by John Bayley
Duckworth, 192 pp, £14.99, May 1994, ISBN 0 7156 2618 3
John Bayley’s new novel is largely about those who are had on, or taken in, and this may well include his readers, who need to keep their wits about them. To begin with, he conjures up a couple of innocents. There was an innocent, too, as hero in his last novel, In Another Country, published in 1955. But Oliver, a young officer with the British army of occupation, was a worrier and a sensitive, risking trouble for the sake of his German girlfriend, and contrasted with his hideously successful rival. In Alice the two innocents are uncompromisingly green, in the sense that the Vicar of Wakefield, or Daisy Miller, or Crocodile Dundee, are green, their misfortunes illustrating the world’s vanities.
Vol. 16 No. 15 · 4 August 1994
Penelope Fitzgerald (LRB, 21 July) complains that in John Bayley’s Alice even the youngish characters ‘seem to be in a time-warp, referring to “rotters”, to being “a good sport”, to “giving the glad eye” and even to “popping the question” ’. While it is quite true that nobody under seventy talks of ‘giving the glad eye’, nostalgia for turns of phrase among the young or youngish is just as common as that for dress or design. ‘Rotters’, ‘good sports’ and even ‘popping the question’ are still current, if only to enrage hip parents chilling out with The Late Show – and the LRB.
Vol. 16 No. 17 · 8 September 1994
I would like to contest Penelope Fitzgerald’s point (LRB, 21 July) about bottle lamps. I was born in 1963 and quite clearly remember when people made lamps out of Chianti bottles.
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge