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This review is taken from PN Review 62, Volume 14 Number 6, July - August 1988.

YES, IT'S BRADBURY Malcolm Bradbury, No, Not Bloomsbury (André Deutsch) £17.95

'Who cooks and who sews?' asks Malcolm Bradbury about that odd-couple relationship of the writer and the critic, a curious state of marriage that is also, in his own case, an inner divorce. Setting domestic niceties aside, he notes how the critics have usurped the role as legislators of the world, once the unacknowledged provenance of the poets. This critical coup seems to cause one of the Malcolm Bradburys a good deal of uneasiness, since his death as an Author has been so vigorously championed by the nouvelle critiques of semiotics and structuralism. Barthes notwithstanding, authors abound, insists Bradbury: 'We can see them,' and, he adds coyly, 'touch them if we are lucky'.

As a living author Bradbury belongs to an endangered species ('The British have always thought of their writers as the US cavalry thought about Indians: the only good one is a dead one'), and so he evidently has it in for those ingenious French assassins: Foucault becomes a term of abuse, and Robbe-Grillet a bottle of foreign plonk, as Bradbury harks back with mock wistfulness to 'the good old days when we read Lawrence and not Lyotard': if, protests Bradbury the novelist, the critic within him 'says Derrida again I think I shall scream'. While there will be plenty to echo the cry and share his less-than-fascination with continental cleverness, there will, I suspect, be somewhat fewer prepared to acclaim the critical compromise offered in this volume of Bradbury's essays and reviews.


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