November 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
November 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
My first encounter with To Kill a Mockingbird was a sad one, at school, when my English wasn’t good enough to understand the beauty and importance of this book. I soon gave up and forgot about it on the shelf (please don’t tell my English teacher). But after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God over the summer and The Help recently I decided that it was time. It was time to make peace with it and give it another chance, because I knew that it was more than worth it.
And, fellow readers, believe me, it was. Of course, praising To Kill a Mockingbird is safe – more people than I can count place it in their top-ten list. Nothing new here. But it’s always new when you’re the one making the discovery. So humour me, and share my wonder.
I am astounded at Harper Lee’s capacity to convey Scout’s voice as a child, her voice as an adult, Atticus’s thoughts but also what has been left unsaid, all in one. It is a difficult subject to write about but the author masters her words and where injustice is uttered and prejudice remains, little gestures or phrases hint that there’s something else growing in the dark, waiting to be felt and understood, by Scout, but also by the slowly evolving town.
Because it is famous and so much has been written about it more eloquently than this, I will focus on the passage that makes me shiver every time I think about it – because it is so painfully moving, so simple and because someone managed to write it so powerfully. It takes place in chapter 19 during the trial when Tom Robinson is being questioned by the lawyer, Mr. Gilmer, and gives an ‘unsatisfactory’ answer.
‘Yes suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try harder than the rest of ’em -‘
‘You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?’
Three little words in italics. And everything is said.
There are books that make you swell with anger and bring bitterness into your throat at the ache and horror they describe. To Kill a Mockingbird does more than this – it also carries the salve that allows you to hope that perhaps, despite the sorrow and the waste, the personal battles of some men were not fought for nothing. So if you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favour and go read this book.
November 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
Heaney, like many authors I like, has the talent of saying things simply whilst covering an impressive amount of ground. ‘Economy of language’, my teacher called it. Or managing to convey the complexity of things whilst only using a few words. To me, it is what makes an author great, and constitutes the best style. I do love flowery language sometimes, but it is a brilliantly, simply crafted sentence that will truly move me. Unexpected metaphors that say more than you could imagine, a rightly placed comma, a powerful negative. When it is done well, it feels as though piecing something together that becomes self-evident just as you’re figuring it out. And sometimes you don’t figure it all out, and that’s fine, because with authors like these, a second reading will never be too much.
Seamus Heaney certainly is an author like these. I feel like I only understand a fraction of a fraction of his poems, but what I do see is already quite extraordinary. And I think this quotation from ‘Personal Helicon’ describes the process of reading and writing quite accurately – but then, his descriptions are always pretty accurate. It is about an echo, something faint, that grows stronger as you listen and think, as you tentatively let it in, or out, and embrace its multiple meanings. It is something that vibrates inside, that touches you like a pitchfork moves the string, and that doesn’t stop until long after the sound is over.
I can only be grateful for these moments when I am reading, and wish you as many – whatever it is that sets the darkness echoing for you. Whatever it is that you do to see yourself.
Have a lovely week.
November 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
I resort to the wise words of Dumbledore on this dreary November morning, to think about all the people and friends who are still struggling on the East Coast (and everywhere else in the world – it’s so easy to forget about past disasters as new headlines dissolve the old). But also to think about how even I (or we?), despite my comfortable and happy life, forget to turn on the light sometimes and get caught up in the dark side of things. After all, books are about remembering the beauty and horrors of life, in order to appreciate it more.
And so, with Rowling’s words to think about, I wish you a lovely week, and I hope it is filled with light.
November 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
I apologise for the poor quality of the design, which makes me realise I should really try and find better instruments to do this.
The point of the exercise is really to highlight some of the events that have to do with books and literature taking place this month. Hopefully they are all legible… But in any case, here are the links to all of them. Enjoy!
Nov. 1 ~ Through the Window – Julian Barnes
Nov. 2-4 ~ Aldeburgh International Poetry Festival
Nov. 4 ~ New York Times bestseller list
No. 11-18 ~ Bridport Literary Festival
Nov. 16 ~ Breaking Dawn Part II
Nov. 17 ~ Last performance of ‘Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812‘
Nov. 23-25 ~ Cambridge Winter Wordfest
Nov. 29 ~ New Penguin English Library e-books