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Providence, by Anita Brookner, Vintage Press, reviewed by Harrison Solow
The Civics of Civility
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Harrison gives an overview of the book:

Gently Read Literature is an internet journal that hopes to be useful by creating a forum for criticism and analysis of contemporary literature, specifically contemporary poetry and literary fiction. GRL believes there are too few outlets that take the time to scrutinize literature, to explain how and why we value poetry and fictive prose the way we do. Readers and Writers alike need to know the reasons why there are good angels and bad angels. At Gently Read Literature, we will explain ourselves fully, we will own our judgments, and we will always strive to help make the world more literate. With so much these days based on the idiot premise of opinion, GRL strives to present arguments not just feelings. An opinion is worthless because everyone has one, to think that your opinion matters is to insist that the sun shines on just you and not on all. It is time for a...
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Gently Read Literature is an internet journal that hopes to be useful by creating a forum for criticism and analysis of contemporary literature, specifically contemporary poetry and literary fiction. GRL believes there are too few outlets that take the time to scrutinize literature, to explain how and why we value poetry and fictive prose the way we do. Readers and Writers alike need to know the reasons why there are good angels and bad angels. At Gently Read Literature, we will explain ourselves fully, we will own our judgments, and we will always strive to help make the world more literate. With so much these days based on the idiot premise of opinion, GRL strives to present arguments not just feelings. An opinion is worthless because everyone has one, to think that your opinion matters is to insist that the sun shines on just you and not on all. It is time for a congress of critique, so that we can begin to wipe away the inept, the superfluous, and the deficient. This all may sound pretentious, but within the vast glut that is American literature, too much is published that is poorly written or simply needless. It is time we separated the wheat from the chaff.

“Harrison contributed an in-depth but accessible review to the literary journal I edit, Gently Read Literature. Her critical skills are sharp and her tone is formal without being distant. I hope to feature work by Harrison in the future. ” Daniel Casey, Editor, April 29, 2009


 

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Mr. Woodhouse was almost as much interested in the business [of writing charades] as the girls, and tried very often to recollect something worth putting in. “So many clever riddles as there used to be when he was young — he wondered he could not remember them! But he hoped he should in time.” And it always ended in “Kitty, a fair but frozen maid.”
—Jane Austen, Emma

Kitty, a fair but frozen maid, was born Catherine Josephine Thérèse Maule in Anita Brookner’s novel, Providence. Apparently unable or unwilling to live up to that name, she consents to be called “Kitty” long past the age of kittenhood. And yet, the name is somehow appropriate as she serves out a perpetual apprenticeship in what she hopes is a traditional romance, all the while completing a conclusive novitiate in the Romantic Tradition at a small English provincial university.

Kitty Maule is an academic: a researcher and a tutor, whose meticulous attention to and absorption of detail in the study of Constant’s Adolphe is not paralleled in her constant and anxious scrutiny of what it means to be English. She is in love with Maurice Bishop, colleague, history professor, onetime lover and now, to her dismay, merely a friend. As the story, such as it is, unfolds, Kitty is longing to be asked by Maurice to accompany him to France, where he will be going to research the great French cathedrals. He has told her all about his proposed trip while, incidentally, she was typing his lecture notes on the great English Cathedrals:

Her main preoccupation was whether Maurice would ask her to go to France with him. She would be useful, she knew, could do all the boring things, while he got on with driving the car and getting from one place to another and being inspired by what he saw. French after all, was her mother tongue; she could save him a lot of time and trouble. (22)

Born of an English father and a French mother (whose parents were French and Russian), Kitty “struggles incessantly between two worlds, the one, dead; the other powerless to be born.” (Matthew Arnold, Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse) She thinks she wants, more than anything, the love of Maurice Bishop.

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Harrison

Dr. Harrison Solow’s writing awards include the Pushcart Prize for Literature (2008). She is published by Simon & Schuster, The University of California Press, Harper Collins, Carpe Articulum, AOL, Cinnamon Press, AGNI, The Pushcart Press and several others in the USA,...

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