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No Dribble From Drabble: Discovered Authors

abstract:A lovely essay in The Guardian (April 4 2009) caught my eye today, it was written by a person I did not previously know. The story is titled "The Missing Piece" and it is about how various people overcome their “black dogs,” (which could have been a direct Churchill quote, but whom she doesn’t reference). She does comment on various famous writers (Tennyson, Wharton, Henry James) who experienced periods of melancholia, and the methods they used to fight it: writing, walking. What I love about the piece is that she draws in personal anecdotes from her own family—her mother and other people’s mothers factor in there as ways not to handle melancholia, aging and the like. Read the piece and see what you think. The fact that I could think of at least 6 people to send the article to who are dealing with life issues and might take heart from an article that touches upon how not to give in, signifies to me that this is an important and inevitable part of the life process, and that from time to time we all need to be reminded that great people as well as the unwashed masses go through it. photo credit: National Portrait Gallery


April 07, 2009
— &linkCodeI've since started a file on this author. Like a modern day librarian's clipping folder, I've begun copying and pasting articles she has penned. I intend to order a couple of her books after I've figured out which ones I like best. In researching her background one discovers quite a few surprises. It's like meeting someone's old, dear friend for the first time and realizing that you are embarking on a new relationship with someone whose life spans a different era. As she is British, her life and writing provide insights into history itself, with all the intricate interlacing of people you already know.

“Margaret Drabble was born in 1939 in Sheffield. Her father, John, was a barrister, a county court judge and a novelist. The author AS Byatt is her older sister. After university, Drabble started writing a novel, joined the RSC and had a baby. 'With babies, writing was more convenient than acting,' she recalls. A Summer Bird-cage was published in 1963. Drabble became one of Britain's most respected novelists and biographers and was awarded a CBE for services to literature in 1980. “ —The Observer, Sunday June 15 2008

Since that time Drabble has become a sort of interesting old lady. As old ladies are prone to do, they think and speak out about all manner of things. The Guardian has a lovely archive of articles she’s written about her annoyance that W.H.Smith the book store should have a monopoly at the airports. Then she wrote a bit on where the heck her rubbish ends up, and a picture of her 70-some-odd year-old self in a fluorescent vest and hardhat standing amidst a smoking heap of rubbish accompanies the piece. Then there is an elegant piece called “the Peppered Moth” whose imagery caught my breath and happens to be the title of her 14th novel.

Then of course there are the odd pastimes. As an avid jigsaw puzzle builder (if that is the correct noun) she manages to use the subject to invoke all manner of philosophic interjections and psychosocial observations from present day and past history. My favorite is a gently scathing piece on the history of writers roles as literary divas in a literary circus, a concept I’ve often pondered as part of the machination of the book marketing scene.

It is simply delightful, calm, easy writing --effortless to read containing that practical, makes-sense wisdom and perspective that Doris Lessing has. One reviewer says,

"She is one of the most interesting novelists in England today, and her career is arguably the most important of all. For she is becoming the chronicler of contemporary Britain, the novelist people will turn to a hundred years from now to find out how things were . . ."

I always count it a good day when I’ve discovered a new writer. I hope that cheers you too.

List of Works

Selected Nonfiction
  • Wordsworth (Literature in Perspective series) (1966)
  • Arnold Bennett: A Biography (1974)
  • The Genius of Thomas Hardy (ed.) (1976)
  • For Queen and Country: Britain in the Victorian Age (1978)
  • A Writer's Britain: Landscape in Literature (1979)
  • Angus Wilson: A Biography (1995)
  • The Oxford Companion to English Literature (ed.; 5th & 6th edns) (1985, 2000)
  • TThe Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws (2009)
  • Worthwhile Links

    • Contemporary Authors Website
    • Excellent list of her short pieces of journalism in The Guardian, here.
    • NYTimes Author Spotlight and Archive of Reviews: This is like striking gold. All the articles ever written on or about the author including reviews of her books. Enjoy! (and start mining the list of all the other authors, too.)



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