Of all the novelists of the last fifty years, there is no one I more regret not having met than Penelope Fitzgerald. Thls volume, a collection of eighty-four separate pieces (reviews, lectures, and introductions to a number of mostly minor classics), has both intensified my regret and provided some compensation. Reading it has been like having a series of brief conversations with the author. And each conversation has left me with some insight or witticism I have wanted to share with others - for example, this sentence about Stevie Smith: 'She presented to the world the face that is invented when reticence goes over to the attack and becomes mystification.'
The book's title, A House of Air, is taken from Fitzgerald's article about 'The Grange', Edward Burne- Jones's house in Fulham, now demolished. It is an appropriate choice; the book is a spacious house, full of voices. 'Hearing them Speak', an article about dialogue, begins, 'Of course you want to