Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

In addition to several collections of short stories, Penelope Gilliatt has published novels, collections of essays (including film reviews, profiles, interviews, and conversations), an award-winning screenplay, an opera libretto, and a study of comedy, which is an analysis of the comedic styles of famous comedians.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The “jet set,” that chic world of international sophisticates, has found in Penelope Gilliatt one of its compelling literary representatives. Her talents as a purveyor of elitist wit and liberal sensibility have been prominently recognized, sometimes skeptically and even negatively, but, most generally, with acclaim and high praise. Scrupulous readers of her work, such as Anne Tyler and Anthony Burgess, appreciate her profound modernity, whereas the less astute see primarily, or exclusively, slickness and glibness. Her cinematic writing style was effectively conducive to her script for the John Schlesinger film Sunday Bloody Sunday, the 1971 film which received prizes as the best screenplay of the year from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics, to be followed in 1972 by a prize from the Writers Guild of Britain and a nomination for an Academy Award. In 1972, Gilliatt also received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and an election to the Royal Society of Literature.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Broyard, Anatole. Review of Splendid Lives. The New York Times Book Review, January 29, 1978, 12. Mixing mild blame with high praise, Broyard touches upon a key characteristic of Gilliatt’s short stories, namely, their breaking off, their “discontinuing in the middle of things.”

Casson, Hugh, and Lord Snowdon. “True to Her Words.” The Guardian, May 12, 1993, p. 11. Personal recollections of Gilliatt, just after her death, by two well-known men who knew her. Casson notes Gilliatt’s passion for words, while Lord Snowdon remembers her inquisitiveness and her humor.

Dinnage, Rosemary. “Stylish Sketches.” Review of Quotations from Other Lives, by Penelope Gilliatt. The New York Times Book Review, April 11, 1982, 6. Emphasizes Gilliatt’s style, suggesting that its “clipped brilliance” may not wear well, and discusses Gilliatt’s loving preoccupation with verbal oddities. Note is taken of the satisfaction to be derived from reading between Gilliatt’s clever lines, but the writer considers that the lines themselves should be more substantial.

Glendinning, Victoria. “Watch Your Language.” Review of To Wit and Lingo, by Penelope Gilliatt. The Times, February 17, 1990. This review by a well-known British writer maintains that Gilliatt’s picture of an...

(The entire section is 539 words.)