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Friday, March 28, 2014

Other worlds in this--

I like this comment from John Banville so much--and like many things that a person likes, the reason is that it chimes with a particular experience so well:
Long Lankin came from the early sixties. But Ireland in the sixties wasn’t the sixties as Americans think of it. When I look back now to the sixties here it’s like looking back to the Middle Ages. It was a primitive world. But it’s good for a novelist to cross periods in history in one lifetime. When I was writing Kepler and Doctor Copernicus, looking back to Europe in the Renaissance, I only had to think back to Wexford when I was growing up there to get a feel for what a primitive world was like.
I had precisely the same feeling about writing A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage--that I had lived in Pip's world in my Georgia summers and knew its primitive shape very well. I only had to remove a few strands of reality to reach the farm that is the orphanage. Summer experiences in Lexsy and Collins meant knowing a poor sharecropper's life and also the life of a Southern "lady" who had risen for many years at dawn's crack to make 14 dozen biscuits for her children and hired laborers... I expect "Southern lady" always referred to a hard worker, back then. So I knew a place that, barring a few touches of modernity, felt as primitive as any medieval world; I also knew a place that felt like the late nineteenth-century or very early twentieth-century but had fallen (thanks to the Depression) from its days of glory.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.