Oh yes, honestly, I used to know her. I mean not well, but well enough to know what she was like. And she was really kind, back in the day, believe me. She was so beautiful. Everyone just wanted to be with her. We all used to copy what she was wearing and try to listen to the same music as her. We were in awe of her. And it wasn’t all surface stuff either. If one of her friends was in trouble she was always the first to help out. Seriously, I know it’s hard to believe now, but back in the day everyone used to love her. Even the people who said they hated her secretly wanted to be her.
But then, as she got older, a few people started turning on her or, worse yet, ignoring her. And I guess she just couldn’t handle this fall from grace. She started snarling at people. She got really bitter. And then, just recently, she started banning all known facts from her house. She declared them dry and pointless. Not surprisingly perhaps, she became unwell but still she banned all specialists from her home. Before we knew it she was sitting alone, rocking in her chair, singing random songs about the old days and promising to anyone who would listen how things were going to get much better in a minute.
I will be loved again, she promised. Just give me some time, she kept saying. But by then time was the one thing she didn’t have. It breaks my heart to see her now, really it does.
They construct the wall and appoint fierce guards at each checkpoint. How impressive they all look!
Until, that is, they notice the clouds gliding irreverently above their heads and the determined ants crawling up and over the wall each night.
Even tiny birds flout the fiercely defended border with impunity.
After being called dead early, Frank gets honestly intrigued, judging knowledge lovely; money nothing; or pettiness quaintly real.
“Sorry – totally unnecessary.”
“Violence with xrays, you zealot!”
Albert meets two old friends for a drink. After a couple of minutes, he clocks it.
‘Are you two….involved now?’ he asks.
They both smile.
Then Albert thinks about the word involved. Albert’s never been involved, not really.
Perhaps that’s sad. Sadder still, though, would be trying to involve yourself.
Albert accidentally brushes against a man in the corridor.
‘For goodness’ sake,’ the man complains, tutting loudly at Albert and giving him a cold stare.
And Albert realises something he should have worked out years ago: sometimes offence is something you actively have to take. It doesn’t just arrive, unbidden.
Please, for old time’s sake, take your right hand and study it most closely.
Now then, you see that deep line at, say, seven o’clock heading up to one o’clock? Well, my old friend, that’s what we term your lifeline.
And see that line coming in from the left, just before what we might term a quarter to? Ah come on now, don’t be all salty like that: you can see it; just look a little harder. That’s the one! The one curving up to join your lifeline, the one that runs alongside your lifeline for an inch or so before veering off to the right, heading off who knows where and then becoming a little faint?
Well yes, that would be me, yes. Indeed it would. Typically me you might say.
Now, would you just keep an eye on that line? Just let me know if it does anything weird. Would you do that for me?
I’ve just finished reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I don’t know if my view of the book will settle down to something a little less extreme but as I type this I feel this is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. I usually mark books I own – deface them some might complain – with vertical lines in the margins; small reminders to help me navigate back to passages I have found especially compelling. This technique was largely redundant with Housekeeping. The whole of chapter eight, for example, would have required a vertical line along its margin. I’m no book reviewer so I’ll finish with one small passage to exemplify, I hope, the precision and powerful elegance of the writing.
“For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.”