shewhomust (shewhomust) wrote,

Alison Lurie

It must say something about my literary - or not-so-literary - tastes that those of Alison Lurie's novels which are most vividly present to me are the early ones, the ones skimmed past with a mere mention in the Guardian's obituary: I'm not going to claim them as my favourites because I remember so little of some of the others. A quick check of the shelves (under the window in the spare bedroom, between Anita Loos and Rose Macaulay - how I love alphabetical order!) confirms that I own several of her later books, of which I have no recollection at all, and that I don't own one which I am certain I have read, but it must have been in a library copy.

But Imaginary Friends is very clear in my mind: here's the Pan paperback which I found in a charity shop, long ago, was intrigued by the premise: an eminent sociologist and his assistant embed themselves in a group called the Truth Seekers, who believe themselves to be in touch with aliens. Did I, even fleetingly, detect an SF flavour to the narrative? I hope not. But something attracted me enough to open the book, and read: and that's always my test of an unknown writer, does this voice make me want to read on? It did, and I became quite partisan about this author I had discovered by serndipity, and who no-one seemed to know about.

When the same charity shop (this was so long ago that there were fewer charity shops) offered me The Nowhere City, I was not deterred by the sunbathing blonde on the cover, nor even by the endorsement from the Sunday Citizen "Strips the region around Hollywood as bare as a sunbathing starlet" - and that's appropriate, because one of the central characters is someone who is not happy to have moved, albeit temporarily, to Los Angeles. I wonder now whether the dynamics of that central marriage have dated, whether the book is too much of its time (1965): doesn't matter, read it for a story about these people at that time - and bear in mind, as I so often fail to, that this is comedy.

These two are the books I think of when you mention Alison Lurie: that obituary reminds me how much I like Real People, a much shorter book about a stay at a writer's colony: this, says the Guardian, "was based on the actual retreat of Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York, where Lurie spent time on her second and third novels. It caused such offence that she did not feel able to return there." I wonder how far that is true, and how far it is a witty adaptation of the truth to reflect the theme of the book, in which a writer struggles with how much of herself and her life she can allow onto her work.

Life is short, and books are many. So much good stuff to reread, and I don't think I've ever read any of Lurie's non-fiction (as an academic she specialised in children's literature). This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
Tags: books

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