JUDY KRAVIS

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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Up at the pond on the summer solstice, my second read of Tony Judt's The Memory Chalet. The hawker dragonfly is back, circling the pond as Tony Judt circles my sense of myself. He was a year younger than me and I seem to know him. The furnishing of his memory chalet is not so different from mine. The choices are different but the people doing the choosing are related. We are edge people. His precise placing of himself in relation to London Paris and New York could be mine. He liked New York, for example, because he felt most European there. When he thought or spoke of the English he did so in the third person.

He did not sit by ponds, I think. He liked Switzerland: mountains, trains. He was not a ruralist. He was a public intellectual.  Where I engaged with him first was perhaps his account of traversing London on tubes or Green Line buses, a boy in gaberdine I would have recognised.

One reason to read is to find your kin. One reason to sit by the pond is to find your neighbours, to breathe with the transitioning tadpole at the water's edge.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

All the manoeuvres we make for our daily relations with the world—how to fix a blog and kill a magpie—deflect us from describing it. Eudora Welty in Mississippi early twentieth century, describes. She observes. It's a relief to read a description born of a need to observe.
He stood there with a stunned, yet rather good-humoured look of delay and patience in his face, and kept on standing there. He stamped his mud-red boots, and his enormous hands seemed weighted with the rain that fell from him and dripped down the barrel of the gun. Presently he sat down with dignity in the chair at the table, making a little tumult of his rightful wetness and hunger. Small streams began to flow from him everywhere.
This isn't description it's reanimation. Her language reanimates her memory, her observation. People seem to think of description as inert. It isn't. To watch everything around me, says Eudora Welty, I regarded grimly and possessively as a need. As a child she needed to read the world in conformity with her inner life; perpetually alert, fearing the untoward.

Behold this dreamer cometh.

Eudora Welty's stories in The Modern Library Edition have been the refuge among local carnage lately: ten hens, a fierce fox, two crows and multiple magpies. I needed something quiet and passionate, sentences taking shape and closing like a Scarlatti sonata.