Decades ago, I watched ‘The Pallisers’ series, based on the books of Anthony Trollope, on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre, and so his name automatically caught my eye on the cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine. The article, written by TNY’s Critic at Large, Adam Gopnik, is called ‘Trollope Trending’, and explains the upsurge in interest for the works of an author who was born 200 years ago last month.
In addition to The Palliser books, Trollope also wrote the Barsetshire novels, and many ‘one-off’ books which Gopnik describes as ‘odder’; but the Palliser set is far and away the favourite for Trollope followers. His attention to the manners of politics, balanced by the every-day details his characters seem to obsess with, create a realism and iron that explain Trollope’s ideas of how reform occurs:
an impossible idea becomes possible, then becomes necessary, and then all but a handful of diehards accept its inevitability. . . Once something is plausible in a semi-democratic society, it has a natural momentum toward becoming real.
Gopnik says that what has happened with the gay movement in America ‘is almost a textbook case of Trollope’s idea’ of the reform process. He sites other examples to explain why Trollope’s work is relevant today, and gives a critique of various of his books, explaining that the key to their success is his ‘endless multiplicity: people who like “Rachel Ray” turn to “The Three Clerks,” and fans of “The Three Clerks” ask their friends about “Orley Farm”.’
Indeed, one of Trollope’s earliest fans was Nathaniel Hawthorne, whereas Henry James wrote an obituary tribute that ‘complained that Trollope’s work lacked irony.’ Well, that’s ironic!
Gopnik’s piece is a delightful read, especially if you’ve read or watched the Pallisers. It may start you reading or re-reading some of his books.
Also in this issue, is a rather startling Comment piece by Philip Gourevitch called “Search and Rescue” which examines a long history of duty and dereliction of same on the high seas concerning boat people, first from Viet Nam, and latterly, from Africa, most particularly Libya. It begins with the recounting of an extraordinary event in 1988 which brought public scrutiny on the actions of one Captain Balian of the U.S.S. Dubuque, a lesson which apparently needs relearning!
As always, it’s great to have a look at movies that will eventually come to a theatre near you, and get the lowdown on them in advance. Likewise, to dream about possibly heading to the Big Apple to see some of the gallery exhibits or plays/musicals on Broadway. And don’t forget the great cartoons!! All in all, a terrific issue!