JUDY KRAVIS

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Thursday, 2 July 2020

How effortlessly you inhabit my life, said George Craig in a letter circa 1972. I didn't know quite what he meant but I was pleased and it was a model, a paradigm for much else, later. Writers inhabit my life effortlessly. As I came upstairs one evening, a few weeks ago, I had a Grace Paley moment. Whatever adjustments life was making just then, Grace Paley was the woman for them. I didn't need to read her; she was there.

And in July, a broody season, the field not yet cut, bird's foot trefoil showing up in new places, vetches and hawkbit moving down the slope, Virginia Woolf's Between the acts comes into focus. I read it, that is, technically that's what I'm doing. But it feels like setting a calque of an uneasy leisured england on the meadow I walk through and stare at every day, leisured and uneasy.

Reading, like walking, is associative. Pointz Hall, where Between the acts happens, in 1940, gave rise to a pseudonym I used once: Katherine Poyntz. The first novel I wrote, On foot the velvet odyssey, echoed the pageant of Between the acts as well as a performance I saw at the Edinburgh Festival in 1985, in which Europe shuffled west, puppets and humans alike.

So, when I say I have been reading Between the acts slowly for the past week or so, often at night, I am also adjusting my life to its past. Counting meadow brown butterflies and grasshoppers.
Suddenly the tune stopped. The tune changed. A waltz was it? Something half known, half not. The swallows danced it. Round and round, in and out they skimmed. Real swallows. Retreating and advancing. And the trees, O the trees, how gravely and sedately like senators in council, or the spaced pillars of some cathedral church....

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