‘Pretentious’ is a word that’s cropped up more than once in recent remarks about LD’s oeuvre, causing understandable annoyance to his admirers, who try to refute the accusation. More useful, perhaps, would be to reclaim the word. I’m reading – slowly, savouringly – A Card From Angela Carter, by Susannah Clapp.
Apparently the dread word was lobbed in her direction as well. Clapp writes:
‘Taxed with overwriting Angela (“I’m all for pretension”) explained how eagerly she looked for opportunities to do so. “Embrace them?” she retorted: “I would say that I half-suffocate them with the enthusiasm with which I wrap my arms and legs around them.” ‘
Maybe we should start a Bring Back Overwriting movement, devoted to the taking of literary risks and returning pretension to its rightful place – the occasional by-product of aiming high.