Monday 5 May 2014

‘That would be a glorious life, to addict oneself to perfection; to follow the curve of the sentence wherever it might lead, into deserts, under drifts of sand, regardless of lures, of seductions; to be poor always and unkempt; to be ridiculous in Piccadilly.‘ The Waves p. 74

When I first read The Waves in 1968 I marked sentences that leapt at me, and on every subsequent reading I meet the younger self who chose this sentence over that, who was moved by this coincidence of VW’s reach for reality, and her own.

There are sentences that arrest, perplex and then release you a happier camper than you were before, fulfilled and relieved.

Robert Musil: ‘Two weeks later Bonadea had already been his mistress for a fortnight’. Beckett: ‘You have to be there better than that, Clov, if you want them to let you go, in the end’.

The first sentence I read, aged three or so, was ‘Busy Timmy puts on his outdoor shoes’. Busy Timmy was there and not there, in the words as in the blue romper suit in the picture. When I moved to Ireland I had to say how many books I was importing, how many records. 'If you had a television you wouldn’t need any of that', said the man who came to fix the cooker. I was discomfited and joyful at the same time.