Saturday, May 28, 2011

Both new vintage Drabble and the next-best thing

Left-leaning, intellectual with working class cred, Margaret Drabble stands alone among contemporary novelists as uniquely loyal to socialist ideals almost unknown today.  I don't typically associated her with short fiction, but was elated when the publication of her uncollected stories, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, was announced for this spring. There is a rich range of material spanning decades with Drabble's attendant preoccupations represented.

Tessa Hadley's The London Train is a novel I never would have selected based on the cover -- still not sure about that U.S. version -- but the novel itself is preoccupied with both the same intersections of private life and society which typifies her work. Hadley's protagonist of the first half, Paul is precisely situated, "Most of the cohort of cousins in his generation had done well for themselves, they had made the archetypal baby-boomer move out of their parents' class, they were in local government or in hospitals, or worked in middle management." 

Hardcore Drabble fans, and there are such things, will delight. When I was working for a library automation vendor, I was sent to a very lovely liberal arts college outside Toronto for the go-live date of their new catalog. Troubleshooting, I searched for Drabble's The Millstone to check how one of the bibliographic fields was reflected after the data conversion. The assistant director caught my query and told me that the sys admin was a Drabble fan as well. She told him of our affinity, a strange thing to share. Another time, I encountered a Drabble cache. Some friends in Ann Arbor had arranged a house swap with their London place. There were multiple copies of he Penguin paperback among the academic couple's books.

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