THE SIGN OF THE FISH by Peter Quennell


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The biographer and portraitist (Hogarth's Progress, The Profane Virtues, etc.) discusses the background of art, chiefly in relation to literature, and it is a graceful and discerning causerie proceeding from personal experience to that of many of his well known contemporaries, from the particular to the universal. The pleasure and pain of writing, a via dolorosa, pursued to intensify and enlarge our sense of life, leads to a discussion of the various genres: poetry, the older and nobler form of writing which he attempted as a young man, Robert Graves, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and his disordered life, and that ""solid literary phalanx""- the Sitwells; storytellers, and again the failings of his own early novel, Colette, Gide, Virginia Woolf, Greene's ""inferno"" and Waugh's ""wasteland""; stylists- George Moore and James; artists; biography, with an aside on his own study of Byron. There is an interesting piece on writing as a means of self-discovery; on two criminal court cases; on literature and illness- and the artistic personality which- in its heightened sensibility- must also be neurotic. Quennell is a fastidious and perspicacious writer and these essays on artists and writers have many small insights and larger illustrations to attract and stimulate a selective audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1960
Publisher: Viking