Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Times, The Atlantic and Elizabeth Taylor (No, Not That One)

I stopped my weekday subscription to the New York Times a couple of months ago. They raised the delivery rates and couldn't get the paper to my driveway reliably anyway. And it was hard to justify the all-around waste of resources when I could just read it online. (Though that's always a disappointing experience, if only because I can't do it lying in bed.) But I still get the Sunday paper. Not because it's the best paper of the week - in fact, it's usually the worst, with all its bloated, unnecessary sections and gruesome "style" inserts. (To me, those sections are almost Fellini-esque in their bizarreness. The journey to absurd has been long and tiring, and I wish they'd just prop up a corpse in a prom dress and be done with it.)

It's the Book Review I can't do without. A couple of weeks ago I found an article - no, wait. I'm thinking of The Atlantic. Never mind the Book Review, which I do love but isn't the subject here after all. It's in The Atlantic that a found a homage to the English novelist Elizabeth Taylor, and immediately ordered three of her books. (They've been out of print for years, but were just reissued by Virago Modern Classics.) She specializes in those small, deeply nuanced domestic dramas where everyone sips cocktails and makes polite conversation while wondering why they feel so desperate. Very British stories, and of historical interest, too, since they take place during and just after World War II, just as the country is struggling anemically back to its feet.

Taylor was well-enough known in her day, but is almost forgotten now, probably because her books lack any blockbuster potential. They're just gems of quiet insinuation and gently darkening mood, even more extraordinary because she works with such mundane material.

If I could turn just a few people on to her, I'll feel I've done my good deed for the week.

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