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There’s a sudden late surge of warmth in the rough winds today and it’s the perfect day to read one of John Clare’s best sonnets:

November

Sybil of months & worshipper of winds
I love thee rude & boisterous as thou art
& scraps of joy my wandering ever finds
Mid thy uproarious madness – when the start
Of sudden tempests stir the forrest leaves
Into hoarse fury till the shower set free
Still the hugh swells & ebb the mighty heaves
That swing the forrest like a troubled sea
I love the wizard noise & rave in turn
Half vacant thoughts & self imagined rhymes
Then hide me from the shower a short sojourn
Neath ivied oak & mutter to the winds
Wishing their melody belonged to me
That I might breath a living song to thee
Recent posts

Autumn

When I walked over the lock the other day, I passed a man pushing a bike, explaining autumn to his kid. There are four seasons a year, he said, and this is the one where the leaves fall.


'Each new autumn is closer to the last autumn we’ll have, and the same is true of spring or summer; but autumn, by its nature, reminds us that all things will end, which is something we’re apt to forget when we look around us in spring or summer.'
- Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
And then I remembered a quotation from Cassandra at the Wedding , which I read seven years ago. And of course I’d put it on here. So I found this old dear old thing again, how wet behind the ears. There I am, young self: voluble, enthusiastic. I miss old credulities. It’s time to bring this thing out of the closet and into the end of this decade. To tell that old self: I am reading Savage Detectives again, after all these years.

The Private Life of the Diary

I’ve kept a diary since I was twelve. While I composed nearly illegible autobiographical scratchings in my first years of primary school at my teachers’ request, it wasn’t until I was on the brink of becoming a teenager that I felt I needed a more permanent arrangement. I suspect it had to do with reading The Diary of Anne Frank. My diary’s function has changed over the years – it once had a name (having discovered that Zoe was the Greek word for life, I thought my choice extremely clever), and I used to like my diaries in a variety of shapes and sizes, spangled with glitter, ruled with wide lines, shackled with locks and keys. For at least eight years my diary was the space in which to vent my feelings, and offered some form of therapeutic comfort. This meant it was largely about boys and is, as a result, very tedious to reread. But while the function of my journal has changed, each volume has been a solution to the manic desire to scribble. As I discovered reading Anne Frank, each e…

Eire go Bragh

St. Patrick’s Day came a little late this year. This arrived in the mail on Friday.

Between the promise of O’Connor, finishing Tim Robinson’s magisterial Connemara trilogy, whizzing through the second season of The Fall, and Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker article on the bodies of those “disappeared” during the Troubles (March 16th issue), March has proved an Irish excursion. I’m almost in the mood for a thimbleful of Guinness.

Monologuing

My previous experience of Rachel Cusk is restricted to her travel book on Italy, The Last Supper, which was withdrawn in Britain because of objections from individuals who found themselves featured, unflatteringly, within its pages. It's very difficult not to write a book about Italy without being smug.

Then I read reviews (especially hatchet jobs) about her controversial divorce memoir, Aftermath. I confess I’m suspicious when a writer writes memoir after memoir, as if his own life is the only field of interest. I read memoirs – I am moved by the familiar voice – but I’m wary of their cultural predominance. Self-knowledge is a good springboard for knowledge of others. Orbiting one’s own life without ever calling into question the limitation of it seems myopic. (This, however, is not to say that personal writing can be divorced from art, or that it should be.)

But Outline is an expose of how fascinating and selfish and dreary and inescapable monologues on the self can be. The plot …
I’m reading the journal of Katherine Mansfield. Every so often reading gives you a jolt of recognition or kinship: some kind of connection to the absent voice. This morning I read:

January 22. Weather worse than ever. At tea-time I surprised myself by breaking down. I simply felt for a moment overcome with anguish and came upstairs and put my head on the black cushion. My longing for cities engrosses me.

January 23. The old man breaking stones again. A thick white mist reaches the edge of the field.

The year is 1915 and a space of exactly a hundred year stands between Mansfield and me. One January is as bleak as another. Why is it so comforting to read about another’s misery? Why is this true about diaries and not Facebook? I imagine this is because diaries are private consolations, places to put despair so that it doesn’t leak into public life. Facebook, on the other hand, becomes a means of redefining a version of the public by one’s despair.

My brilliant, imaginative friend and forme…