‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ by Margaret Drabble

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Margaret Drabble, 1964

The magic trick:

Taking the reader to a hipster party

Very, very early Margaret Drabble today, and her youth shows, I think.

Which is both good and bad.

Bad maybe in that it feels slight. It’s as if she started writing a scene and decided she liked the satire so much that might try to stretch it into a full-fledged story. The reach she makes for a plot lands the story into territory that could rightly be described as silly bordering on stupid.

All that said, her youth is very much a good thing because it helps take this story into a world we don’t usually get to see – kids partying in a way that feels very realistic. It’s a satire – and one that is very funny – but it’s also a great bit of time travel for us, flashing back to the early 60s when the hipsters weren’t quite swinging yet but getting very close.

And that’s quite a trick on Drabble’s part.

The selection:

The red-haired girl seemed to be called Justina. The named suited her, he thought: there was something finely dramatic and vital about it, and yet at the same time something superior. As well as remarkable hair and a remarkable face, she was the lucky (and conscious) possessor of a remarkable voice, which she was not at all afraid of using. From where he was standing, directly behind her, he could hear every word she uttered, so deep and clear and vibrant were her tones. She seemed to be fond of brave abstract assertions like,

‘Well, in my opinion, the abstract is a total bore, anyway. I like things to happen, I don’t like talk, I think that action is the only true test, myself.’

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