The tale of Cinderella tugs at us in many directions, so that even after we’ve long outgrown the glass-slipper version of virtue rewarded we might very well respond to it in other guises. Jane Austen’s Cinderella variations still entertain me. But as far as wish-fulfillment goes, I lean toward tales of the Late Bloomer who finally gets to go to the ball and pip the prize. Take, for instance, Penelope Fitzgerald. Her first book, a biography, appeared when she was almost sixty. By the time of her death in 2000 at the age of eighty-three, she had written two more biographies and nine novels: three were shortlisted for the Booker, another won it, and her last novel won the National Book Critic’s Award. Appropriately for someone who also dabbled in ghost stories, even death appears to be unable to stop her momentum. A Selected Prose has already appeared, and volumes of letters and other writings are in the works. Just published is an...

 
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