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Extra info for A.S. Byatt: Critical Storytelling
I leave the end open. (G: 176) Unbeknown to Julia, Simon does indeed go to Oxford to visit Cassandra, who has, contrary to expectations, managed to ‘put out a hand’ at last. But it is too late for both of them. Julia’s book is already out there, and the irony is complete when Cassandra notes in her final conversation with Simon: ‘What can we ever say to each other now that won’t be seen in terms of Julia’s fiction? Our course is plotted for us in it’ (G: 271). Julia, meanwhile, upon learning that Simon has visited Cassandra at Oxford just as she had ‘made’ him do in her novel, also had nothing to say.
Should act as the forerunner of his condemned subtopia, imposing it where it was not, talking limits into land Henry lived in, and found, easily, limitless’ (SS: 32). ’ Oliver’s response is apt: ‘“It’s not in me,” said Oliver, with mock sorrow. “It’s not the way I go on. It may work for you. qxd 24/09/2010 13:23 Page 19 Fathers, sisters and the anxiety of influence 1111 2 3 4 5111 6 7 8 9 10111 11 2 3111 4 5 6 7 8 9 20111 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30111 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 40111 19 Ostensibly, and at the most basic level, the conflict negotiated in the scene between Henry and Oliver is one between creativity and criticism, ‘seeing’ and ‘thinking’, writing and reading, synthetic versus analytical ways of imagining and perceiving the world.
Indeed, as Michael Westlake (1989: 33), in a thoughtful but not entirely favourable review of Still Life, writes, Byatt’s fiction must appear, at one level at least, like an elaborate defence ‘of a certain kind of literary and philosophical faith’, namely that of an epistemological humanism reaching back before, and at odds with, ‘Continental theory’ and post-structuralism in particular. Overtly, Westlake (1989: 35; emphasis added) continues, Byatt’s project ‘owes much to considerations of realism, coupled’, however, ‘with a suspicion that the narrative form as such must inevitably put that realism into question’.