Tuesday, 27 October 2015

I have been reading essays (Notting Hill Editions, A Eulogy for Nigger and other essays) by day, and James Purdy novels (Malcolm, followed by The Nephew and In a shallow grave) by night. This doesn't feel like a decision I've taken, fiction opening the dream channel and essays for the light of day. Reading is a path to follow, or paths. Friends all. The life of the mind, as people used to say.

James Purdy tells truths at a useful, awkward distance, useful to James Purdy, that is, as well as to certain readers since 1959. Awkward on my bookshelves too, lodged for many years in a corner you can hardly see, next to Barbara Pym. The essays are of now, written in the last year or two. These are people thinking and writing in the world I live in. A contemplation of a rabbit's detachment; a docket from a day's thinking up a mountain, in the clear air; a eulogy for nigger, the word and her maidens.

We present ourselves to an essay as the essay presents itself to us, disarmed and revealed, a state of mind as well as an argument and a history: what we can understand by considering a rabbit; having time to contemplate a rabbit.

James Purdy's characters would have time, like Malcolm on his gilded bench, fatherless, expectant; or the nephew in his home town of Rainbow before he went out to Korea and was killed; or Garnet Montrose In a shallow grave, back from Korea, with all his insides on the outside, mulberry-coloured, the applicants who look after him, they have time. Characters are created out of the writer's time, the writer's contemplation. Do you know how long that can go on?

Fiction is a tale to tell on your own out of a dark place, the best tale you have just a short walk away from the truth. The essay is an exploration without purpose; you don't know what you might find or lose. It's only when you read people who have been thinking, who continue to think after you have stopped reading them, that the world activates again.

No comments :

Post a Comment