Friday, March 29, 2013

Penelope Lively: Bio Facts, Quotes, Essay

Penelope Lively:  Bio Facts & Quotes


Born:  Cairo, Egypt, March 17, 1933
Education: Read Modern History at St. Anne’s College, Oxford
Languages: English
Nationality: British
Genre: Novel; Children’s Novel  
First Published:  1970, Astercote
Societies: Royal Society of Literature; PEN; Society of Authors
Awards:  Carnegie Medal, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe,1973; Whitbread Award, A Stitch in Time, 1976; Booker Prize, Moon Tiger, 1987
Recognition: OBE, CBE, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Avocation:  Historian


Book Title:  How It All Began

Storyline:  “A change of plan”

Chapters 1-3: How It All Began, Penguin Books, 2011

Charlotte Rainsford––Retired Head of English at a prestigious North London girls’ school
“Expert hands: lifting, bundling. In the ambulance, she is on her side, in some sort of rigid tube. She hurts. Where is hurt? Don’t know. Anywhere. May as well try to sleep for a bit.” (p. 1)

“She thought about the mugger. Her mugger. This faceless person with whom she has been in transitory, intimate relationship. Him. Or possibly her. Women muggers now, no doubt; this is the age of equal opportunities. Person who was here one moment, gone the next. With my bag. And my packet of Kleenex and my Rennies and my comb and my bus pass and my rail card and three twenties I think and some change and the Barclaycard. And my keys.” (p. 5)

Rose––-Charlotte’s daughter, Secretary to Lord Henry Peters
“Rose had had to call Henry from the hospital to say that she would not be back that day. He did remember to inquire after her mother, when she arrived the next morning…… She explained that it was possible she would not be able to accompany him to Manchester.” (p. 6)

Marion Clark:–– Henry’s niece, Interior Decorator
“Marion is doing money at the desk in her office next to the showroom; she is also awaiting a call from her lover, and remembering that she has a client due in half an hour…… Her mind is flicking also to Henry, and this tiresome matter of the Manchester trip next week, when she really cannot spare the time.” (p. 9)

Jeremy Dalton––Marion’s lover, Stella’s husband, Antiquarian
“The Daltons’ marriage broke up because Charlotte Rainsford was mugged. They did not know Charlotte, and never would; she would sit on the perimeter of their lives, a fateful presence.
The mobile phone was the smoking gun – Jeremy’s mobile phone.” (p. 14)

Lord Henry Peters, Retired Historian–––Rose’s employer
“All the same, it was tiresome not to feel that he had the ballast of his old outline of this lecture; Rose would have seen to it, too bad she had had to let him down, good of Marion to come but so far her performance fell short. Henry made a few more notes, irritated now, and then sat back to stare at the passing scenery, and doze again.” (p. 18)

“Marion, meanwhile, was doing rather better. She had engaged at once with the man to her right, who introduced himself as, “George Harrington–a pleasure to meet you… “ He had a certain charm, but not too much – Marion was well aware that charm can be both self-serving and deceptive.” (p. 19)

George Harrington, Financier––guest at Henry’s Manchester talk
“George Harrington beamed. “This is most exciting. What very good luck that Manchester brought us together in this way.”
“It’s only by chance that I’m here,” said Marion. “My uncle’s secretary’s mother… Oh, we needn’t go into that.” She too was smiling. Cards were exchanged. The lunch drew to a close.” (p. 20)

Lord Henry Peters, Retired History Professor
“Henry began to speak. And as he did so he realized with horror that he could not remember the names of the late eighteenth-century prime ministers. The Elder and the Younger. Elder and Younger what? Name. The name? He spoke; he avoided, he danced away from the crucial word, he sounded odder and odder, he skirted, he fluffed, he knew that it was becoming obvious. And then at last the name surfaced: Pitt, Pitt, Pitt. He flung it out, triumphant, but too late: the puzzled faces before him told him that.” (pp. 21-22)

Jeremy Dalton––husband of Stella, lover of Marion
“Jeremy was not accustomed to adultery. He had done it a few times before, but these had been transitory matters. Now, he was branded, condemned, sentenced, and all because of a change of plans and a message. So … so fortuitous. So unfair, in a way. The situation as it was – had been – really wasn’t hurting Stella.” (p. 24)

Jeremy and Stella Dalton
“Twenty years ago. Since when both Jeremy and Stella have discovered her propensity to collapse. Disaster is not necessary; Stella can go into meltdown for no very evident reason. … So Stella’s present state is Jeremy’s fault entirely. He acknowledges this, with a few wry thoughts about that betraying mobile. Offstage, Charlotte Rainsford, catalyst, is settling into her room at Rose’s house and, elsewhere, a juvenile delinquent is going about his (or her) business.” (p. 29)

Charlotte, Rose, Gerry (Rose’s husband), Henry, Stella, Jeremy, Marion
“It was on the fourteenth of April that Charlotte Rainsford was mugged. Seven lives have been derailed – nine if we include the Dalton girls, who do not yet realize that their parents are on the brink of separation. Charlotte, Rose and Gerry are thrust into unaccustomed proximity; Charlotte is frustrated and restless. Henry Peters – his lordship – has been chagrined and humiliated and is desperate to reestablish himself. Stella Dalton is taking five different kinds of medication, phoning her sister twice daily, and instructing a solicitor. Jeremy Dalton is writing placatory letters to Stella, nervously inspecting his accounts, and trying to sell an eighteenth-century overmantel for an exorbitant sum. Marion Clark is soothing Jeremy while wondering if in fact this relationship is really going anywhere; she is meeting George Harrington for lunch next week – a potential business partner looks suddenly more interesting than a romantic fling. She too has been preoccupied by her accounts.
Thus have various lives collided, the human version of a motorway shunt, and the rogue white van that slammed on the brakes is miles away now, impervious, offstage, enjoying a fry-up at the next services. Just as our mugger does not come into this story, not now, anyway – job done, damage complete, he (or she) is now superfluous.” (p. 44)

Three Novels

First Lines

“I’m writing a history of the world,” she says.  And the hands of the nurse are arrested for the moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old, ill woman. “Well, my goodness,” the nurse says. “That’s quite a thing to be doing, isn’t it?” And then she becomes busy again, she heaves and tucks and smooths–“Upsy a bit, dear, that’s a good girl–then we’ll get you a cup of tea.”
                                    Moon Tiger, 1987

“The fifth Brandenburg. Somewhere, some place, every moment, an orchestra is playing the fifth Brandenburg concerto. Violins are tucked under chins, bows rise and fall; in recording studios and concert rooms, and here in the dining-hall of a Cambridge college where a hundred and fifty people are gathered together for no reason except circumstance which is perhaps the reason for everything. They are together for one hour fifty minutes and for the most part will never see one another again.
   Some, of course, will.”
    Perfect Happiness, 1983 

“The coffin stuck fast at the angle of the garden path and the gateway out into the road. The undertaker’s men shunted to and fro, their hats knocked askew by low branches, their topcoats showered with raindrops from the hedge. The mourners halted around the front door and waited in silence. Birds sang effusively. At last the men managed to pivot the coffin on the gatepost and proceeded to the waiting hearse. The coffin was loaded. The mourners straggled out onto the road and hesitated, unwilling to commit themselves to the attendant limousines.”
                                                Passing On, 1989

Penelope Lively’s Cosmic Comedy of Errors:
How It All Began

Theme: Happenstance

“It’s only by chance that I’m here,” said Marion. “My uncle’s secretary’s mother… Oh, we needn’t go into that.” She too was smiling.” (p. 20)
“At the same time, she was thinking of George Harrington, with a certain complacency. This might turn out to have been a rather fortunate encounter; at best, a solution to her declining revenue.” (p. 23)

“It was on the fourteenth of April that Charlotte Rainsford was mugged. Seven lives have been derailed.” (p. 44)

“Marion held her cup out to Mark “Thank you, I’d love some more tea. Oh yes––Rose. I thought she sounded a bit distracted when I rang. How is her mother, by the way?”   “Her mother?” Henry looked perplexed. “Oh, the mother. Yes, there was some accident, wasn’t there?” (p. 210)
                                    How It All Began, 2012

Theme: Place and History

   “London is said to be an agglomeration of villages; not at all. London is a vast entity within which people move around, each upon their own exclusive level, ignoring all that is unknown and irrelevant. In the buses, Henry is sometimes aware that there do not seem to be many others like him––elderly white male wearing suit and tie, with raincoat over arm, and that the bus speaks in tongues, most of them unfamiliar to him…….From time to time, Henry stares at his fellow travelers on the bus and feels disoriented. What had gone on here? The society of his youth was a familiar territory; you knew where you were with it, and moreover it related to history: he saw also from whence it sprang, he saw its origins in the nineteenth century, and in his own personal patch the eighteenth. Behind and beyond it lay the long, slow metamorphosis of this country. In the mind’s eye, the centuries were laid out, heading toward today, with significant developments flagged up: Civil War, Reform Act, universal suffrage. But none of that could have been seen to lead to this.”

“The eighteenth century had moved on, leaving him behind. History is a slippery business; the past is not a constant but a landscape that mutates according to argument and opinion.”

How It All Began, (pp. 28-29; p. 30)

Theme: Reading

“Forever, reading had been the central, the necessary fix, the support system. Her life had been informed by reading. She has read not just for distraction, sustenance, to pass time, but she has read in a state of primal innocence, reading for enlightenment, for instruction, even.”  (p. 34)

“Charlotte found that her reading had undergone a seismic shift. She read now purely for distraction……She was not bolstered by books in the way she always had been; they were no longer that essential solace, retreat, support system.”  (pp. 114-115)

Charlotte  starts Anton out reading children’s literature.
Anton’s Reading List

Where the Wild Things Are
How Tom Beat Captain Najork
Charlotte’s’ Web
The Finn Family Moomintroll
Demon Lover
Pride and Prejudice

A New Kind of Comedy

 Penelope Lively has created a new kind of comic cosmos. Lively, in her novels of comic realism, has inaugurated a world of contemporary sensibility, one in which the distancing factor of irony is just as suggestive, the author’s wit as astute, as in classic comedy; but the prejudgment of human folly has been mitigated, has been transformed by the understanding of the author. Judgment, held in abeyance as explicit dictum, is still part of the scenic detail, character development, and thematic juxtapositions of this contemporary world.

Laughter abounds in this new comic world. There is all the fun of seeing the fall of the mighty (or at least the chastening of vanity), and the more intelligent fun of predicting another round of mistakes, or maybe a gentle learning curve, on the part of a certain character. There is plenty of that kind of fun, and best of all, there is the sheer delight of entering a world fashioned by a genius of comic realism.

A contemporary author of comic novels in English, Penelope Lively writes in the tradition of masters of comedy Shakespeare, Austen, and Dickens. Shakespeare’s comedies make brilliant use of the conventions of the comic plot, with its reversals and reconciliations, and, for the most part, Shakespeare’s comic protagonists learn and change. Jane Austen peoples her novels with comic types, to be sure, but it is Austen’s affection and irony towards her characters, comical or not––and her readiness to judge them, that makes her world so delightful and absorbing. Charles Dickens created comedy out of hyperbole, and constructed an often-fantastic world providing comic relief amidst the grim landscape of 19th century social change.

Penelope Lively’s comic novels are, like the comedies of Shakespeare, intricately plotted. Just as Shakespeare culled comic plots from Plautus and improved upon them, so Penelope Lively has devised the action of her comic novels based upon classic patterns of  comedy.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, one finds that there is, in certain ways, more of an affinity between Penelope Lively and Shakespeare than between Lively and her realist forebears. As Shakespeare, in The Comedy of Errors, keeps track of each character’s point of view amidst the many complications[i], so Lively holds the several threads of How It All Began, her comedy of happenstance, while realizing the individual responses to randomness of each character in her cast. This affinity goes beyond skill, however.

As Shakespeare scholar C.L. Barber notes, “Shakespeare’s sense of comedy as a moment in a larger cycle” leads him, in The Comedy of Errors, to use the themes of old age and the threat of death to place in relief the conventional happy ending of the couples’ reunion.[ii] That larger cycle is missing in most novels of comic realism. When Jane Austen draws one of her brilliantly plotted novels to a close, it is as though that 18th century world, so complete in itself, has been temporarily put to rest. No other, larger world beyond it beckons. Likewise, the self-sufficiency of the illusion of Dickens’ quirky world convinces us of its reality. The worlds of Austen and Dickens and most others writing in the tradition of comic realism are mimetic worlds understood and explained psychologically and socially. Their authors do not understand these representations of reality in terms of philosophy or cosmology.

Penelope Lively situates the plot of her exquisitely crafted novel How It All Began within a larger cycle: the lifecycle. Like a playwright, she pairs off (or re-pairs) most of the key characters who are in their prime by story’s end, leaving Charlotte and Henry, the two key characters of the older generation, to deal on their own with aging and the end of life. Henry winds down like a failing mechanism. At work on his memoirs, “Henry wrote, and wrote, and time went by until he wrote rather less, and took to reading and rereading, in a desultory way, and eventually ceased to do even that.” The more self-reflective Charlotte marvels at the “new-minted” baby next door, seeing herself, by contrast, as “time visible.” Lively adds that Charlotte’s story will end, “But not for awhile, she thinks, not for awhile.”

Beyond the larger cycle of life and death, Lively situates the events of her comedy within a universe whose laws include the perpetuation of randomness through chaos. Happenstance sets this story in motion with Charlotte’s mugging, and soon “Seven lives have been derailed.” Happenstance, like the perpetuation of errors in Shakespeare’s play, will complicate the action of the novel; but while the human error of Renaissance comedy can be resolved, its mischief ended, the ripple effect of  chaos continues to the end of Lively's contemporary story and beyond: “These stories do not end but they spin away from one another, each on its own course.”

Although a comic scene in a Penelope Lively novel is more likely to take place in a restaurant than in a drawing room, Lively’s writing has been described as classic comedy of manners, and here one immediately thinks of Jane Austen. A very modern kind of comedy of manners Lively’s would be, however: a sly comedy, in which the author’s ironic commentary is at times merely implicit, located in the lacunae between one scene and the next.

Thus in How It All Began, the transition from a scene in which Jeremy Dalton wakes up to the prospect of financial ruin as the penalty for his infidelity, to a scene in which his lover, Marion, plans a financial coup, proceeds from the close of Jeremy’s scene:

“Divorce would be ruin…He might as well jack in the business, and set up as a house clearance firm with a van and a sleazy flat over a garage.”

To the opening of Marion’s scene:
“Marion’s lunch with George Harrington took place at a restaurant she knew to be pretty swank.”

Where comedy of manners exemplar Jane Austen informs the reader of her opinions–––both aesthetic and moral–––regarding characters’ behavior, Penelope Lively might use, as above, transitions from one scene to the next to state ironic juxtapositions––leaving it up to the reader to draw conclusions.

It is not only the reader who is given more freedom by the new comedy.

Penelope Lively’s characters are considerably more autonomous than those of Austen, writing in the 18th century. If Austen’s Emma deserves a scolding from Mr. Knightley for mocking Miss Bates at Box Hill, that is nothing compared to the disapprobation that Austen’s heroine directs towards herself later in the novel. That disapprobation is formulated explicitly in Austen’s authoritative prose. There is nothing like this iteration of authorial judgment in all of Penelope Lively: 

With insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of everybody’s feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange everybody’s destiny. She was proved to have been universally mistaken: and she had not quite done nothing, for she had done mischief.

                        Emma, Penguin 1966, p 402

On the whole, Penelope Lively avoids the language of judgment, even though the moral dimensions of many situations she describes––from the neglect of the child Martin in Judgment Day to the socially damaging insider trading unleashed in How It All Began––  surpass the imbroglios of which Jane Austen’s Emma is culpable.

For all that we can readily distinguish, in Austen, between characters capable of
development, like Emma and Knightley, and flat, comic characters like Miss
 Bates, Austen’s comic world is not neatly divided into many-faceted characters
on the one side, and one-dimensional characters on the other. Such a division is
more typical of Dickens’ comic world, peopled as it is by heroes and  heroines,
 by villains, and by grotesques whose tics and manias have their literary antecedents
in comic types suffering from an imbalance in the four Humors.

Where Dickens’ comic characters loom larger than life, Penelope Lively’s both imitate life and understate it. Small fry, leading humdrum, even insignificant lives, Lively’s characters attain a larger stature, and sometimes a quirky grandeur, within the bounds of the worlds they seamlessly inhabit.

Dickens’ comic types frequently dominate the narrative, much like Big Top clowns cavorting and sprawling across a stage. Penelope Lively’s men and women are nothing like circus performers. Rather, they become fodder for the author’s irony in the course of painfully making life’s big and little mistakes. In this they sometimes resemble novice stand-up comedians whose jokes don’t quite come off––at other times merry pranksters who get caught by the local cops.

There are no grotesques in Penelope Lively’s comic universe, no wicked Uriah Heeps of startlingly odd physical appearance; no hypocritical Pumblechooks; no Micawbers whose one-liners (‘something will turn up’) tag them as characters with a degree of fixity at their core; no figures like the Aged Parent, whose comic identity is tied to the exaggeration of a tic. Thus, in Great Expectations, the Aged’s son Wemmick and guest Pip perform exaggerated, almost slapstick capers around the Aged P., nodding vigorously to perpetuate the pretense of a conversation between themselves and the old man, who is completely deaf.

Lively’s wicked characters have no physical traits that give them away. Her hypocrites, like Mark in How It All Began, may be fixed essences, but rendered with psychological realism, they can stay under the radar while partaking of a dynamic with self-reflective characters who can and do evolve.

From our 21st century vantage point, we can perhaps best see Penelope Lively’s new comedy by way of contrast both to the world of Dickens and to the world of Austen. Lively’s comic universe contains a varied cast of characters whose traits are distributed variously for each character: round or flat, eccentric or normal, comically rendered or realistically portrayed.

Lively’s characters are more fortuitously comical––as though seen from the perspective of a laughing cosmic deity who knows all the play of chance–– than the characters of Austen or Dickens, neither of whom contemplated chaos theory. Lively’s characters may not be as fixed as grotesques or snobbish matrons, but they are comically ‘built to last’––with eccentricities buffered by great rolls of metaphorical baby fat: the insulation of inexperience. Thus Henry, for all his insufferable vanity, once embarked on an adventure in television, becomes a babe in the woods. Having watched him fall so precipitously before, we feel a sneaking sympathy for his lordship. Whatever happened to judgment?

Judgment in Penelope Lively’s world, the author’s judgment and the reader’s, has been translated into a new language. We laugh. And laughter purges. But our laughter doesn’t remain a visceral experience. We are not at the carnival. We are not in thrall to a Dickensian view of human nature, needing exorcism.

We read on, observing with amusement. Our amusement doesn’t stay merely cerebral though. We are not in an eighteenth century parlor. We are not limited to the observation of human folly, to the evidence of the five senses.

Nor does this new theater tell only of lovers reshuffled and sorted by comedy, their progression towards happiness as predictable as an infant’s stages of development.

We no longer laugh the laughter of the 20th century: the laughter of the hollow men.

We are in the society and the geography of the 21st century, are in Newton’s universe and in the quantum universe of random perturbations. The quantum universe is strange to us, but we know its entanglements to be real.

Knowing what we know (what we think we know)–––of history, of the singularity, of the remote past and of the far future––we laugh our human laugh, the laughter of the present.

Reading the new comic novel, we laugh with our heads thrown back, we laugh with our shoulders and bellies, and then again silently, with just the hint of a smile. We observe with our eyes wide open, then look inwardly with eyes fast shut. We ponder a thing with our minds and feel it once again with our hearts. All this time, this reading time, we are guided by something better than reason. Better even than sanity. We are guided by the lighthearted––dare I say lively?––wisdom of the author.

Key Quotation

[There is] an inherent ambiguity around the idea of meaning and coherence in story, which is trying to impose order on life as lived, where order there is not. I think the storyteller is not so much trying to create an ideal, as play around with “what if,” propose outcomes that may seem to have coherence, or to be inevitable. Perhaps story is some kind of distorted mirror image of life. But in the last resort I think it is an expression of a basic human drive—we have always told stories, not necessarily to supply meanings, but just because humankind seems to need them.”
***Penelope Lively, Interview, Penguin Reading Guide

Word in Context: Agglomeration

“London is said to be an agglomeration of villages. Not at all.” (How It All Began, p. 28)   Agglomeration: noun: a jumbled collection or mass.

Writing the Rhythms of Speech

Anton said, “Before I came to this country, I was in a very bad time. I think you know. My wife––who go. No job. And I thought––I can do nothing, or I can do something. So I do something––I decide to come here.  Choosing––choice. We talk about that once, with your mother, remember?”

(How It All Began, p. 222) 

Narrative Structure:  Plans, Chance, Serendipity, Mischance
(and underlying it all, teleological storytelling)

COMEDIC STORY: Forays, Reversals, (Re)conciliations: Timespan: from the day Charlotte is mugged to the day she returns home

·      COMEDIC STORY: Features Henry, Marion, Jeremy and Stella most prominently
·      Cameos: George Harrington, Delia Canning, Mark, Peter Newsome
·      Comedic story: Foray: Henry’s trip to Manchester
·      Comedic story: Reversal: Henry’s speech a disaster
·      MAIN COMEDIC STORY: Henry tries to restore his reputation
·      SECONDARY COMEDIC STORY: Jeremy, Marion, and Stella
·      TERTIARY COMEDIC STORY: Marion and George Harrington 
·      Foray: Jeremy tries to restore his marriage
·      Reversals: Jeremy meets with obstacles: Stella’s sister, Peter Newsome
·      Foray: Marion redecorates a flat for George Harrington.
·      Reversal: George Harrington goes missing; Marion not paid

COMEDIC STORY: Separate, intertwining storylines for Henry, Jeremy, and Marion

·      CORE STORY: BILDUNGSROMAN: from (relative) Innocence to Experience
·      Features characters capable of learning from experience: Charlotte (reflective; voice closest to author’s); Rose: learns through observation, reaching out to others, love; Anton: learns through openness to new experience, tutorials with Charlotte, reading, love, and personal transformation.
·      Charlotte learns through the changes brought about by her mugging: living with Rose, teaching Anton, talking with Gerry.
·      Rose learns through changes brought about by her mother’s mugging: changes in Henry, the presence of Charlotte in her home, and through her relationship to Anton.
·      Anton learns through living and working in a new country, his tutoring by Charlotte, his walks around London with Rose, and his relationship with Rose.
·      Because of its emphasis on learning from experience,, the core story (or story of the ‘straight’ characters) is teleological: it moves in a definite direction: from (relative) innocence to experience. Thus the ‘purposefulness’ of the core story contrasts with the shape and thematics of the comedic story, which occurs, and has its momentum maintained by, happenstance.

Comic Characters in How It All Began


[As seen by television executive Delia Canning]
“Unbelievable. You don’t come across people like this today, at least she didn’t. She eyed him. A certain awful appeal, there was no getting away from it……
   Almost a parody. You’d have to have him wearing a waistcoat and watch-chain, and that suit, or something similar.”  (p. 101)


“Jeremy…is someone whose occupation is the acquisition and disposition of a superior form of junk––reclamation, after all, is just that--–who spent most of his time scouring the landscape for antique doors, wash basins, chimney pots, old brewery signs…Jeremy did not see his wares as superior junk or himself as a serendipitous junk hunter. Of course not. He saw himself as a connoisseur, as a skilled investigator”. (p. 25)


“Mark had, of course, an eerie affinity with Henry himself, and would have been offended to be told that, like Henry, he recognized determined application to an area of scholarship as the route to distinction: make yourself the ultimate authority on something and you were away. It didn’t terribly matter what….He was thinking of taking over the Scottish Enlightenment entirely, flood the market with articles, then a book (beef up his thesis, so not too much extra work).elbow out the competition by hinting they were all superannuated hacks. This would take time……” (p. 164)

“And thus was the arrangement born. Mark had done a quick investigation of the shelves and reckoned that he could get this stuff sorted within a few weeks, couple of months max, if he went hard at it. But he would not go hard at it. This would be an
on-going process, a lengthy, time-consuming process which would fund Mark’s own, concurrent work. He could fiddle about with Henry’s papers, in a leisurely way, for part of the day, and get on with the Scottish Enlightenment during the rest.”   (p. 165)

Straight Characters


“Charlotte views her younger selves with a certain detachment. They are not herself, but other incarnations, innocents going about half-forgotten business. One is not nostalgic about them––dear me, no. Though occasionally a trifle envious: physically spry, pretty sharp teacher, though I say it myself, all my lot got As at A level, no question.
   And further back yet, young Charlotte. Gracious, but look at her, stepping out with men, marrying, pushing a pram.”  (pp. 7-8)


“And Rose knows that dictionaries will never be the same again. Dictionaries will be forever imbued, sanctified, significant, suggestive. They will not be just themselves, but this moment, these moments, being here, like this, in this place, her and him, in this now. She will always have this now, tethered to Collins and Chambers and the Shorter Oxford.”  (p. 168)

“In Glass, they studied an engraved Victorian goblet, and Anton thought fleetingly of his wife, who had been irrelevant for a long while now. She hung there for a moment, a reminder of lost emotion. I had forgotten how to feel, he thought. And now I am feeling what I must not feel.”  (p. 192)

Hybrid Characters

Though part of a comic subplot, Marion is a many-sided character who is capable of

Marion has lunch with George Harringtons
“He is an architect of the recession….strictly speaking one should not be breaking bread with him. In fact George Harrington should not be breaking bread himself, let alone Brittany scallops with a bean, shallot and parmesan cream sauce or tian of smoked chicken with wasabi mayonnaise and pancetta crisps, but here he is, in a suit that Marion’s shrewd eye knows to be the best, evidently in good spirits, and with the maître d’ bowing and scraping”. (p. 52)


“So that was the story. These have been the stories of Charlotte, of Rose and Gerry, of Anton, of Jeremy and Stella, of Marion, of Henry, Mark, of all of them. The stories so capriciously triggered because something happened to Charlotte on the street one day. But of course this is not the end of the story, the stories. An ending is an artificial device; we like endings, they are satisfying, convenient, and a point has been made. But time does not end, and stories march in step with time. Equally, chaos theory does not assume an ending; the ripple effect goes on and on. These stories do not end, but they spin away from one another, each on its own course.”  (p. 224)


Biography – “Penelope Lively,” by Jacqueline L. Gmuca, in Modern British Women Writers: An A-Z Guide, Vicki K. Janik and Ivan Janik, Editors, Greenwood Press, 2002

Legacy in Literature

·      English Literature
·      World Literature
·      Feminist Literature
·      Women’s Literature
·      Historical Fiction

[i] C.L.Barber ‘Shakespearian Comedy in The Comedy of Errors’ in College English
Vol. 25, No. 7 (April, 1964), pp. 493-497.
[ii]  Ibid.

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