Monday, 3 February 2014

In bed with a cold I turn to Jane Gardam. Even after recovering from the cold I am still reading Jane Gardam. She is one of the places where I seek refuge in difficult times. Lashings of characters and a certain wryness, ellipsis, search. She knows the awkwardness of youth, its will to plunder. In one day I read the whole of The Flight of the Maidens, and by dusk could not distinguish my own emotions from the characters’; the trees outside, and the mossy stones, flocks of pigeons and a fox, a blackbird, suddenly none of mine.

Somewhere in the great reread of Jane Gardam, five novels in succession, during and after my cold, I remember Virginia Woolf, and Nella Last. One writer leads to another. Their voices resonate with each other. One black beetle knows another. Nella Last, housewife 49, chimes with Wimbledon, after the marmalade, or 22 Hyde Park Gate, moments of being.

Virginia Woolf gave up the struggle around the time that Nella Last found her voice. Jane Gardam, a few decades on, is sanguine. Making the marmalade is also a moment of being. VW is one with Nella’s frank dailiness and Jane Gardam’s marmalade.

The focus these women have, why they need to write it down. How they write it down. This is what preoccupies me. Marguerite Duras is another. ‘I don’t like literature but this isn’t like literature it’s like life’, said a student, making my day some years ago.

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