In qualified praise of Stephen Vizinczey

Bryan Appleyard

  • Truth and Lies in Literature: Reviews and Essays by Stephen Vizinczey
    Hamish Hamilton, 399 pp, £12.95, June 1986, ISBN 0 241 11805 0
  • In Praise of Older Women: The Amorous Recollections of A.V. by Stephen Vizinczey
    Hamish Hamilton, 192 pp, £8.95, February 1985, ISBN 0 241 11378 4

There is nothing enigmatic about Stephen Vizinczey. He has views, he shouts, cajoles, threatens and sneers. He worships Kleist and Stendhal, loathes William Styron and Sainte-Beuve, is conspicuously silent about Flaubert and seems to have a love-hate relationship with Nabokov. He delights in summoning up his rhetoric of loathing for the Nazis and the Mafia and in distilling hard, frequently paradoxical conclusions from his insights. ‘Cowards are dangerous,’ he hisses in a review of Gitta Sereny’s book on the Nazis, Into that Darkness, and, at the end of the same review: ‘the safety of the state depends on cultivating the imagination.’ On the autobiography of a Mafia boss he says: ‘The book exudes moral insanity in the way most modern fiction does.’ Reviewing Kate Millett, he observes: ‘erection-anxiety is the main source of evil in the world.’

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