Frederic Raphael

A Life Well Read

The Novel: A Biography

By

Harvard University Press/Belknap Press 1,172pp £29.95 order from our bookshop

I should, perhaps, begin by saying that Michael Schmidt is my friend and, quite frequently, my publisher. Ought this to disqualify me from reviewing his mammoth study of fiction in its full-length, prose form? I can say only that if I did not admire it, I would not have agreed to write this review. The Novel: A Biography is a marvel of sustained attention, responsiveness, tolerance and intelligence.

Schmidt, more Aristotelian than Platonist, treats the novel, in its sprawling or neat forms, as a natural phenomenon, to be honoured and tabulated in all its diversity; but he refuses to clamp a measure on what deserves the title or best merits it. He is as close to omnivorous as a man of decided taste can be. F R Leavis’s The Great Tradition, with its scrutineering scowl, has no leverage here.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It is one of those nice linguistic ironies that English should have attempted to make sex respectable by clothing… ,
    • 'He was to my mind the father of the idea that journalism – yes, even journalism – can have a moral dimension to it… ,
    • RT : Feeling old, as exhumes a piece I wrote 37 years ago. But a joy to see Kathy O’S there too. Here’s why:… ,
    • 'Enough of his character remains just out of reach for Barnes to relish the challenge of imagining him.' Patrick M… ,
    • RT : I did a thing about the new Penguin Book Of Oulipo for this month’s Literary Review: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,
    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,