Leave Novelists Out of Fiction

Private Collection/Portal Painters/Bridgeman ImagesJonathan Wolstenholme: Shakespearean Scholar, 2003 do we so many novels and films featuring writers and artists? Films abound—Amadeus, Picasso, Turner, Oscar Wilde, Neruda, Leopardi. In fiction we , among others, Michael Cunningham’s Virginia Woolf in The Hours , Colm Tóibín’s Henry James in The Master . And now the English novelist Jo Baker has dramatized the war years of Samuel Beckett. What is the attraction? With intriguing variations, the underlying plot is mostly the same and, in the end, not so unlike ’s autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Man . We savor the artist’s growing awareness of his or her specialness, becomes one with a particular, always unconventional vision of the world, a peculiar style of thought, an almost mythical superiority to run of the mill experience. And we marvel at society’s obtuseness, its determination to obstruct special sensitivity, the reader at once admires and yearns to share, perhaps conceding a of the same to the author of the new work—Tóibín, perhaps, or Cunningham—who thus borrows some glory from his or her more celebrated subject. If there is a risk in a project like this, […]

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