August 30th, 2009

Interesting words

"I had had a certain facility when I was young, but instead of working, I had lived in idleness, in the dissipation of a life of pleasure, amid sickness, care of my health and strange humors, and I was taking up my work on the eve of my death, with no knowledge of my craft."
Marcel Proust

P. D.

I am a couple of hundred pages into P. D. James' The Private Patient. PDJ is one of those writers I have read for years and years, mostly following the career of her famous detective Adam Dalgliesh. Picking up one of James' books is like putting on a pair of well-worn shoes; you sigh when you put them on. I am increasingly conscious of how leisurely James is. She feels no rush to get down to business. In this book the victim gets to live for 142 pages, and Dalgliesh doesn't even appear in the novel until after that point. So I guess James is not for the immediate gratification reader; she is for those of us who settle down into an Anthony Trollope book for a casual 800 pages and enjoy every minute of it. I have to admit, though, that I feel an interior sense of pressure for the book to get on with it. This looks like a good one. AD is engaged to get married, finally, and he is nearing a change in career (like yours truly). Just one thing. I wish James didn't have a habit of writing sentences like this: "She thought of the peaceful night ahead and of the morning which she would never live to see." I have mentioned before how much I dislike the convention that produces portents like this: "Had I only known then that the kumquat I so casually dismissed would return in its effects to devastate the piece of mind of my dear Aunt Olga." I HATE that habit. And I don't like the authorial intrusion in this book. Okay, thanks. Now I Know That She is Going to Be Killed Tonight.