MIDNIGHT OIL by V. S. Pritchett
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I see myself as a practicing writer who gives himself to a book as he gives himself to any human experience. . . ."" Thus Mr. Pritchett, in the second part of this memoir which picks up where A Cab at the Door (1968) closed, is always to synchronize his own life and his literary life, with the latter often taking precedence over and making use of the former. Accordingly, it veers a little more toward belles lettres than biography and more toward books than people with the exception of his father who dominated the earlier work and appears here at the close to strengthen the terminal thrust. At the onset young Pritchett, a very naive and awkward Pritchett, has escaped him to go to Paris for two years where he leads a ""dilapidated day-to-day life"" in catch-as-catch-can circumstances. He then spends time both in Ireland and Spain as an observer and correspondent -- the former country touches his imagination, the latter sharpens his mind, and throughout both these sections there is the beautiful, visual writing about these landscapes which appeared to such stunning effect in his travel works. His first wife is only really mentioned en passant -- this was an unsatisfactory marriage; with a second later marriage, life becomes ""real at last"" and the artist becomes a man, the man an artist. Pritchett's temperate, tactful work in which self-examination is not narrowly unrevealing (cf. Graham Greene's) is sometimes comic (he returns home once again to find that the ""dining room table, sofas and sideboard had enlarged their old silent war with each other""), always instructive and illumining -- it should have a wide and enduring reach.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1972
Publisher: Random House