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A Little Tea, a Little Chat
     

A Little Tea, a Little Chat

by Christina Stead, David Malouf
 

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New York, on the cusp of World War II. Robert Grant, a middle-aged businessman, lives life by his own rules. His chief hobbies are moneymaking and seduction; he is always on the hunt for the next woman to beguile and betray. That is, until he meets his match: Barbara, the ‘blondine’, a woman he cannot best.

A sardonic commentary on sexual

Overview

New York, on the cusp of World War II. Robert Grant, a middle-aged businessman, lives life by his own rules. His chief hobbies are moneymaking and seduction; he is always on the hunt for the next woman to beguile and betray. That is, until he meets his match: Barbara, the ‘blondine’, a woman he cannot best.

A sardonic commentary on sexual relations and war as potent as when it was first published in 1948, A Little Tea, a Little Chat holds up a mirror to the corruption and cravenness of our late-capitalist moment.

Christina Stead was born in 1902 in Sydney. Stead’s first books, The Salzburg Tales and Seven Poor Men of Sydney, were published in 1934 to positive reviews in England and the United States. Her fourth work, The Man Who Loved Children, has been hailed as a ‘masterpiece’ by Jonathan Franzen, among others. In total, Stead wrote almost twenty novels and short-story collections. Stead returned to Australia in 1969 after forty years abroad for a fellowship at the Australian National University. She resettled permanently in Australia in 1974 and was the first recipient of the Patrick White Award that year. Christina Stead died in Sydney in 1983, aged eighty. She is widely considered to be one of the most influential Australian authors of the twentieth century.

‘[Christina Stead] is really marvellous.’ Saul Bellow

‘A sprawling character study…Callous, comical, loathsome, and tiresome, Grant also, as the David Malouf introduction notes, can sometimes stir sympathy thanks to Stead’s artistry.’ Kirkus reviews, starred review 

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2017-04-02
A sprawling character study that dissects a businessman working in Manhattan, bedding every woman he can, and talking incessantly, in this reissue of a 1948 work.Ten years before Australia-born Stead (The Puzzleheaded Girl, 1967, etc.) published this New York-based business novel, she brought out the 800-page House of All Nations, which showed how a Paris bank touched many lives. This novel anatomizes a single character who does the same. Stead introduces cotton trader Robert Grant in May 1941 in a fur showroom, a sideline of his. There he meets the book's other main character, a woman on her uppers named Barbara Kent, who will soon join Grant for one of his many trysts (the title is his euphemism for these compulsive quickies). They will remain stormily connected even when she entangles him as correspondent in a divorce. In this "life of bars, taxis, and bedrooms," they and others converse in the slang-rich patois Hammett perfected and Hollywood borrowed in the Thin Man series. When he is not serially seducing, Grant looks after his interests on the Cotton Exchange, where he can make $30,000 daily, and in real estate, with some profiteering on a war barely glimpsed by this set. Fairly straight in business, Grant cheats, connives, reneges, and skimps in his dealings with lovers, friends, and relations. He ignores his wealthy wife in Boston and cajoles and mistreats his older son. He's trying to get his life story told in a book or play, the source of much humor. And always in this perhaps overlong book there is his torrential talk, an oceanic spew that lies, bullies, justifies, wheedles, backtracks, and constantly reiterates pet phrases and idées fixes that suggest a mad salesman's spiel. Callous, comical, loathsome, and tiresome, Grant also, as the David Malouf introduction notes, can sometimes stir sympathy thanks to Stead's artistry. Stead has created a fascinating precursor to Bellow's garrulous heroes and the little boy who takes on Wall Street in Gaddis' JR.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781925410150
Publisher:
The Text Publishing Company
Publication date:
10/03/2016
Series:
Text Classics
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
812 KB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Christina Stead was born in 1902 in Sydney’s south. After graduating from high school in 1917, she attended Sydney Teachers’ College on a scholarship. She subsequently took a series of teaching and secretarial positions before travelling to London, aged twenty-six.

There she met Wilhelm Blech (later William Blake), a married American writer and a broker at the firm where she worked: they soon became lovers. They spent many years travelling and working in Europe and the United States, and eventually married in 1952.

Stead’s first books, The Salzburg Tales and Seven Poor Men of Sydney, were published in 1934 to positive reviews in England and the United States. Her fourth work, The Man Who Loved Children, has been hailed as a ‘masterpiece’ by Jonathan Franzen, among others. In total, Stead wrote almost twenty novels and short-story collections.

Stead returned to Australia in 1969 after forty years abroad for a fellowship at the Australian National University. She resettled permanently in Australia in 1974 and was the first recipient of the Patrick White Award that year.

Christina Stead died in Sydney in 1983, aged eighty. She is widely considered to be one of the most influential Australian authors of the twentieth century.

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