The Crotch Thing

James Wood

  • The Spell by Alan Hollinghurst
    Chatto, 257 pp, £15.99, July 1998, ISBN 0 7011 6519 7

Alan Hollinghurst’s new novel is a spoiled gift which, as an ugly baby makes us search for deficiencies in its attractive parents, forces us to reconsider its creator’s talents. That Hollinghurst possesses great talents is certainly not in question. There is probably no novelist alive with such a deeply historical feeling for English poetic lyricism. His prose is almost drowsy with inheritance. Yet he is wakeful, too – intelligent, droll, social, especially good at capturing snobbery’s self-grooming. He has a beautifully loitering instinct for form and sentence: his novels never hustle themselves to conclusion, or to heavily obvious theme.

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