Raphael, Frederic (Vol. 14)
Raphael, Frederic 1931–
Raphael is an American novelist, short story writer, critic, and dramatist for stage, screen, radio, and television. He has experimented with a variety of techniques in his novels to examine individuals within the English upper and middle classes. Darling, an original screenplay, won awards in England and America. Raphael resides in England. (See also CLC, Vol. 2, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)
[The opening scene of Orchestra & Beginners is a] country home in Sussex, where a typical upper-class British weekend house party is in progress….
It is soon clear … that this scene, typical of Frederic Raphael's subtle method throughout, is set primarily for contrast and introduction. The autumn peacefulness of the Sussex weekend is deceptive; though it is scarcely alluded to, World War II has just begun….
The Strausses, Leonard and Linda, alone seem aware that their lives are about to change fundamentally. But then, though they are in this old school group, they are not really of it. Leonard is a Jew, Linda an American. Orchestra & Beginners is the story of their marriage and its reshaping under the tensions of—among other things—the war. As the plot unfolds, the cracks in the apparently secure foundations of this "perfect" marriage are gradually revealed. (p. 43)
Orchestra & Beginners is a fascinating book with, on the one hand, the apparent expansiveness and leisured pace of the nineteenth-century novel but, on the other, a sophistication and glitter that are totally twentieth century. Essentially simple, the story is absorbing because of the intricacy of its construction; one is never quite sure in which direction it will move next.
Raphael has an incredibly intimate feel for place and atmosphere, which he creates with something of the delicate skill of the man who builds castles out of matchsticks, by carefully accumulating seemingly inconsequential details. Now and then, however, the technique is carried to excess, and he produces only one of those tiresome catalogues of trivia that clutter the later O'Hara novels. The dialogue exhibits...
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You might say, although it is heresy to do so, that character becomes a function of style in [Richard's Things]. For it is the style which dominates the book, and it is one of formality, distance and opaqueness. It has a singleness of tone which gathers all of the façades of reality into one space, and an emotion becomes just as much an object as a fruit-and-nut bar. I am becoming ponderous now, and I don't want to suggest that Richard's Things is a 'new novel' or anything approaching one. We will leave that to inferior novelists. What Mr Raphael has done is to make trivial events as touching and as credible as apparently 'significant' ones, and he has done so within an elliptic and ironical prose. He...
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Frederic Raphael, a writer who shifts psychological scenes with magical dexterity, depicts a broken triangle [in "Richard's Things"] that develops an unexpected kink when Richard's "things" fall in love with one another…. This is the kind of thing that could happen in a Colette novel, but Mr. Raphael is very much his own man. His style is wonderfully controlled; it abounds in original visions as it reveals more and more about … two women and their common bonds. It is full of unexpected horizons and interesting people—even to a burglar who makes a fleeting appearance. Not many novelists have so complete a mastery of their art.
Martin Levin, "Fiction and Poetry: 'Richard's...
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It would be a great deal easier to like Frederic Raphael as a writer if his technical skill were less, or—since he is as scandalously accomplished as he is—if he felt less insecure about his readers' recognition of it. To puzzle over seven (or 17) types of ambiguity is pleasure of a high order; but to have them all pointed out, if not actually explained, with much nudging of bold type and winking of italics and puns significantly laid along the knows, is affronting: especially when, as in California Time, you find you cannot do without these artful aids.
'California time' is, its inventor says, 'a sequence of presents'—which in his book are given and received as well as lived through by...
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"The ultimate Hollywood novel!" says Blurb, and for once he may be near the mark…. [In] Frederic Raphael's "California Time": Victor England, well-known director and ladies' man, returns to Hollywood to make a film…. [At times Raphael stops the action to drop numerous] helpful hints on how best to read a book called "California Time." (p. 33)
There are some remarkably funny scenes and exchanges in here [in addition to nearly a pun a page.]… [One] may imagine a benign purpose to the author's word-play, a determination, perhaps, that we be made constantly aware that we are reading, so as not to be hoodwinked by his skills into thinking we are already watching the movie of the book, or...
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Ten pages of The Glittering Prizes is highly entertaining; fifty pages begins to cloy with its unremitting sparkle; and after three hundred pages I was itching all over from the bite of witty gnats. Everyone in the book is witty, even the bit-parts; and the great bulk of the novel is dialogue, with the barest furnishing of characterisation and environment. It is, in fact, a conversion job from a television screenplay; and makes one wonder why this convention of universal verbal brilliance is so much more acceptable on the screen (or stage) than in a novel. Part of the answer is that on the screen there is only one crack of the whip: if you miss something the first time round then it's gone for good. Wit cements...
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As for Frederic Raphael's 'novel' version of his successful television series, The Glittering Prizes, it is not a novel but a script, ie, dialogue, cemented together with a few descriptive lines here and there. I am deeply grateful to Mr Raphael for this television series…. But isn't to present this book as a novel actually an offence under the Trades Description Act?… As a mirror held up to a society that glitters on the surface but has nothing underneath, these scripts are highly effective, but that was not, I believe, the idea. (p. 23)
James Brockway, "Going Down Bravely" (© copyright James Brockway 1977; reprinted with permission), in Books and...
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Adam Morris [protagonist of The Glittering Prizes] wants nothing more than to be smart and successful and win the glittering prizes of life. But he also wants to preserve his feisty, joking Jewish resilience, his artistic conscience, his happy marriage, his own identity, his distance. "If there's one boat I never want to be in," he says, "it's the same boat as everyone else." He finds himself thrown together with people at Cambridge University in the 1950's who want pretty much the same things—marriage, money, fame, comfortable accommodations to an imperfect society, nothing revolutionary. Over the next twenty years experience teaches them, some more harshly than others, the deceptions of their desires. Adam...
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Writers so consistently interested in social manners as Frederic Raphael are usually called 'class conscious'. What's special about Raphael is that he is conscious only of the middle class—in fact, only of the middle class couple. You need read no further than the opening sentences of Raphael's stories [in Sleeps Six and Other Stories] to discover that his abiding preoccupation is the coming together of the bourgeois he and she….
Raphael has gone over this ground so often now, and with such assurance, that he's begun to look self-parodying. He was always indulgent towards his creations (his satirical jabs about as vicious as syrup), and now the saccharine has crept into his much-acclaimed...
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Adulteries in John Cheever's world are conducted, usually, with politeness and grace; in the stories of Frederic Raphael they are defined by a need in the participants altogether more brittle and grasping. The terms of the erotic arrangement are precise and precarious; not delicacy of spirit but deviousness may be responsible for this. Several of the stories [in Sleeps Six and Other Stories] are nothing but fragments, compressed to the point of insubstantiality. An ability to observe closely, with humour, hasn't saved the author from many lapses into smartness ('pregnant silences were followed by infantile noises'), and aphoristic gloss. As vignettes of modern life in a high-income zone these stories are...
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[In Sleeps Six] Frederic Raphael writes about the infidelities and other infelicities in middle-class marriages; typical titles are 'Acute Triangle', 'Similar Triangles', 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and 'Bridal Suite'. His characters are usually rich, randy, intelligent, unscrupulous and unhappy—the literary grandchildren of Scott Fitzgerald's beautiful and damned generation. Raphael would be a better writer if he did not try so hard to make every sentence wittier than the last. Too often the soufflé fails to rise and instead of an airy wit we have a soggy weight…. However, there is also much to admire in Sleeps Six, in particular Raphael's hip humour in his story of the wisecracking New York...
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Raphael, Frederic (Vol. 2)
Raphael, Frederic 1931–
An American novelist, playwright, and scriptwriter, Raphael is the author of Lindmann, Darling, The Limits of Love, and his latest novel, April, June & November. He lives in England, France, and Greece. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)
In England, if we are to credit reviews, Frederic Raphael is regarded as one of the most talented of emerging novelists. In protesting against the strength of outmoded conventions he is similar to writers like Kingsley Amis, John Braine, and Alan Sillitoe who since the middle 1950's have been criticizing the Establishment. But unlike these novelists he is little interested in the clash between the classes or in the life of the working-class. He has instead focused upon the English middle class, in either a native or a foreign setting, and he frequently, but not exclusively, writes about Jewish people….
Although he has written well and extensively, no one of his novels, except possibly … Lindmann, has received the acclaim from intelligent readers that is Raphael's due; nor has he invited much concerted attention from professional critics. Yet within its own limits, his achievement is substantial.
Because of the variety of his abilities and his use of techniques ranging from Wellsian naturalism in The Limits of Love to dissolving montage in A Wild Surmise to Joycean experimentalism in Lindmann, Raphael's books have not been unified in subject and approach. Instead he has written books that impress by their individual brilliance, rather than by what they have in common philosophically with each other….
What his novels do possess in common are varied and authentic aesthetic excellences. Raphael reveals an inclusive and ranging imagination in his fiction with an ability, therefore, to flesh out a whole design with details at once appropriate and compelling. He has a sure sense of the structural importance of his materials, so that each subject receives appropriate aesthetic weight. He is sensitive, moreover, to the quirks of personality which make an individual different from his fellows. He is a novelist who is, accordingly, much preoccupied with the analysis of the motives and the internal states of his characters. He is likewise much interested in the development of his people under the stress both of inner compulsions and outward pressures. He knows not only the distinctive features of personality, but how to embody them in the words of his characters. Of all novelists now writing in England, Raphael seems to me to have the sharpest ear for all the varieties of speech and the greatest ability to reproduce them with effectiveness in his fiction. He is able to do many things well in the novel. He does with aplomb the powerful dramatic scene; he recreates with equal authority the ordinarily overlooked parts of experience and elicits their true significance; and he inhabits comprehendingly an individual's mind and analyzes with precision his conscious and unconscious states….
Raphael's style … is flexible, and he uses it to secure a multiplicity of effects. If anything, his verbal resourcefulness is so great that it occasionally registers as a stridency in descriptive passages or as a greater exuberance than his art requires in books like The Limits of Love and Lindmann….
Lindmann (1963) is the most provocative, mose elusive, and most complex of Raphael's books. It is deeply felt and something of a tour de force at the same time; and it unfolds many brilliant and splendid scenes and presents many intricately conceived and passionately alive characters. It lacks the direct impact of The Limits of Love, the psychological compression of A Wild Surmise, and the grace and tautness of The Graduate Wife and The Trouble with England. Lindmann surpasses the other novels, however, in fullness of design, in extensiveness of canvas, and in the significance of the problems explored. The technical dexterity displayed in Lindmann is even greater than that in A Wild Surmise and shows the strength and flexibility of Raphael's talents. There is no questioning the abundance of his resources; we may perhaps be dubious as to whether they are at all times under full control and we may wonder, too, whether the virtuosity may not exceed even the requirements of his complex design and the intricacy of the issues he analyzes….
[But] dimensions of this novel are as impressive as the contours of Raphael's talent are sharp and varied. He has gone from strength to strength; for all its faults, Lindmann has a massive aspect new to Raphael's fiction. If he has not yet written a novel that is excellent in every respect, there is every reason to expect that he soon will. In any case, he has the virtues of a first-ranking novelist. How far he goes may depend upon the disciplined use he makes of the great resources he has already displayed in his work. For a young novelist with so much already behind him, the future should indeed be auspicious.
Frederick P. W. McDowell, "The Varied Universe of Frederic Raphael's Fiction," in Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, Vol. VIII, No. 1, 1965, pp. 21-50.
Frederic Raphael [in April, June & November] does have a remarkable and pertinent ear for penetrating and highly witty dialogue. The cutting exchanges that go on between the brilliant (sic) generation of Cambridge intellectuals are extremely funny even if one knows the sentences have been carefully refined by the author and haven't really slipped spontaneously off the tongue at a Hampstead soirée. It is also a feat of daring to write so much of the book as pure dialogue and I must say it comes off. The only trouble is that as Frederic Raphael is so adept at it, the rest of the book is unhappily highlighted the moment he lapses into descriptive prose.
Peter Cantor, "Brilliant by Half," in The Jewish Quarterly, Autumn, 1972, p. 48.
I suppose one could say that Mr. Raphael [in April, June & November] has done it again. Not many novelists these days can produce a work of fiction of 541 pages in smallish print which is immensely readable for nearly the whole time.
The story is about the 'brilliant' (somehow we must dispose of this word soon) generation of Cambridge 'intellectuals' (another one for the verbocrap can) many of whom were born forty-odd years ago and who are still rather '―' and '―'….
Much of the most important part of the novel is devoted to an analysis of the relationships. Most of the action takes place in London and on the island of Iskios, and most of it is unfolded through dialogue. Character, also, is exposed and developed through it. This is not an easy thing to do at the best of times, let alone in a 'long distance' book. But, as we know, and are here reminded, Mr. Raphael has an enviable ear for the nuances of speech, of colloquial and idiomatic rhythms, of negotiating the banalities of everyday talk in such a way that they do not bore. Moreover, quite a lot of the conversation is witty and intelligent. He also has a splendid knack of evoking the vivid scene economically….
What of the relevance of this novel to 'our time'? In its plotting and analysis of the many neuroses which appear to consume an increasing number of people, I should think it would be of much interest to many now—and for a considerable period to come. There is a sadness at the core of it, a world weariness which is never cynical. Meyer himself is a most interesting and complex character: ambitious, confused, self-critical; a fascinating and gifted mess trying to sort himself out at a fairly crucial point in life.
J. A. Cuddon, in Books and Bookmen, March, 1973, p. 79.