Pears

I came across this painting of pear leaves on twitter this morning (thank you @ArtGuideAlex)

The ancient and completely unproductive pear tree at the end of our garden doesn’t look as healthy as any of these: a bad case of pear rust I suspect.

I love its age and hoariness – and the memory, more than 20 years ago, of the day we came to look around the house and Jacob ran out into the garden and straight up the old tree, surveying the prospect.

Pears

The Voice That Thunders

I’ve loved Alan Garner’s books ever since I first read The Owl Service – and then wolfed down – Elidor, The Wierdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath. When Red Shift was published – in the Autumn of 1973 – I bought it in hardback – a rare event in those days – and read it at a sitting.

I remember shutting the book finally (carefully) at about 3.00 in the morning; getting out of bed and making my way to the bathroom across the landing – with the uneasy feeling that shadows were slipping off the wall behind me and that a false step might take me out of my safe home in Evesham into the strangeness that was always hovering – you now knew – at the edge of vision.

(If anyone is interested there is a great discussion about Red Shift on the brilliant Backlisted Podcast)

It was the podcast that put me on to The Voice That Thunders – a collection of Garner’s Essays and Lectures – which are just as rich and fierce and individual as the fiction itself.

This, for example, describes more clearly than anything I have read before, what, in my heart, I am always hoping to find in every book I read. Garner writes:

I live, at all times, for imaginative fiction; for ambivalence, not for instruction. When language serves dogma, then literature is lost. I live also, and only, for excellence. My care is not for the cult of egalitarian mediocrity that is sweeping the world today, wherein even the critics are no longer qualified to differentiate, but for literature, which you may notice I have not defined. I would say that, because of its essential ambivalence, “literature” is: words that provoke response; that invite the reader or listener to partake of the creative act. There can be no one meaning for a text. Even that of the writer is but an option.

Literature exists at every level of experience. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It embraces; it does not reduce, however simply it is expressed. The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world.

It is a paradox: yet one so important that I must restate it. The job of a storyteller is to speak the truth; but what we feel most deeply cannot be spoken in words. At this level only images connect. And so story becomes symbol; and symbol is myth.

Garner adds – unnecessarily to my mind – that he is:

…using the word “myth” not as meaning “fiction” or “unhistorical”, but as a complex of story that, for various reasons, human beings see as demonstrations of the inner cause of the universe and of human life. Myth is quite different from philosophy in the sense of abstract concepts. The form of myth is concrete always, yet it holds those qualities that demand of the human mind that it recognise a revelation of the function behind the world.

Of course he is. You can find the Voice That Thunders here.

Afterthought – Garner’s story of his own childhood – Where Shall We Run To? – about growing up in the shadow of war, illness and Alderley Edge – is marvellous too. Seek it out!

9781846554728

The Voice That Thunders

Pessimism is for Lightweights

I’m guessing everyone knows this – but I only found it today, and it seemed like something I needed to read:

Think of those that marched this road before
And those that will march here in years to come
The road in shadow and the road in the sun
The road before us and the road all done
History is watching us and what will we become

There is power and strength in optimism
To have faith and to stay true to you
Because if you can look in the mirror
And have belief and promise you
Will share wonder in living things
Beauty, dreams, books and art
Love your neighbour and be kind
And have an open heart

Then you’re already winning at living
You speak up, you show up and stand tall
It’s silence that is complicit
It’s apathy that hurts us all
Pessimism is for lightweights

There is no straight white line
It’s the bumps and curves and obstacles
That make this time yours and mine
Pessimism is for lightweights
Pessimism is for lightweights
This road is never easy and straight
And living is all about living alive and lively
And love will conquer hate

It’s by Salena Godden – buy the book here

Pessimism is for Lightweights