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Taylor, Elizabeth

brilliance blaming self image

(British, 1912–75)

Elizabeth Taylor described herself as someone to whom nothing sensational had ever happened, who appreciated routine. This perhaps accounts for the quiet brilliance of her writing. The ironically titled The Soul of Kindness (1964) is a study of emotional blindness in which Taylor displays a devastating ability to illuminate the secret interstices between image, self-image, and psychological truth. In Angel (1957) this is taken to an amusing extreme but Taylor is too subtle merely to lampoon her characters—the astoundingly arrogant central character is humanely rendered making the book moving as well as funny. Blaming (1976), Taylor's final novel, written while she was herself dying, is a study of guilt—the title reflects the trick of deflecting self-criticism by blaming others. Taylor was also a consummate short-story writer. Her appreciation of the ordinary coupled with an instinct for the absurd give a wry brilliance to the stories in The Devastating Boys (1972).

Barbara Pym, Antonia White, Elizabeth Jane Howard.

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