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Showing posts from 2015

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My previous experience of Rachel Cusk is restricted to her travel book on Italy, The Last Supper, which was withdrawn in Britain because of objections from individuals who found themselves featured, unflatteringly, within its pages.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…