Thursday, February 04, 2010



Because my new novel, GETTING THE PICTURE, is about old people, I'm particularly interested in other books covering the same theme. I wasn't when I was writing it, convinced that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD was probably writing about the same thing, or had written about the same thing, and were certainly doing it better, but now the book is safely finished, I like to read how others have tackled the same subject.

Anyway, Anita Brookner's novel, The Next Big Thing is the story of Herz, a seventy three year old man who has become tired of the world. Even the lease on his flat only has a couple of years to go and everyone seems to be moving faster, quicker, and in more complicated directions than him. Of course, this is what seems to happen to all of Anita Brookner's characters, but she always does it so beautifully.

There are some special bits here - Herz's lust (he, and Brookner, call it love) for the young woman who moves into the flat below becomes a horrific moment when she accuses him of stalking her, and gets her boyfriend to come and get her key back from Herz. I was reading this chapter from the equivalent of hiding behind the sofa. Also I was moved by the unlikely but honorable friendships that spring up between fellow war emigrees, and how he is effectively elbowed out of his own flat by someone younger and more purposeful. And of course, as with other Brookner novels, London is given a starring role.

The aging process is beautifully but not comfortably shown. Here is a description of Herz's ex-wife, Josie:

This was the only sign that she too was growing old, her failure to utter a proper sentence, as if time were too short for all the formalities of normal speech. Yet she looked much as she had always done. Her crinkly hair was now grey but her complexion was almost ruddy, witness to those days spent in the open air. Her light eyes, always her best feature, were still fine, but coming upon her unawares, as he might have done, he would have taken her for some kind of mutant, verging towards the masculine. Her shoulders had rounded and grown thicker, her hands larger and less cared for. As she buttered a piece of bread he noticed that the last two fingers of her left hand were slightly bent. But it would not do to mention this, for health could only be dealt with in the most general terms.

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