Born in 1917, the short-story writer Peter Taylor has from the beginning of his long and distinguished career had something about him of the old-fashioned literary man. His stately prose style—which in recent years has, like that of his idol Henry James’s late period, grown increasingly elaborate and periphrastic—seems to hearken back to some gentler, quieter era when people didn’t need to shout to be heard and weren’t in quite so much of a hurry to say what they had to say, to a corner of the world where conversation was regarded as an art and language as a kind of music, and to a society in which people were accustomed to drawing, and regarded it as their solemn responsibility to draw, meticulous ethical (and, alas, class) distinctions. What’s more, his at once formal and conversational tone, his legalistic precision and composure, and his way of approaching a story in the manner of a conscientious jury, coolly and...


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