All posts tagged: Penelope Fitzgerald

those days when everything moved

and we take from our lives those days when everything moved, tree, cloud, water, sun, blue between two clouds, and moon, days that danced, vibrating days, chance poem.from Richard Hugo’s poem ‘Letter to Kathy from Wisdom’ There was a heavy frost yesterday morning. After we’d dropped the ‘big’ children at school, the Pip-Pop & I walked across the playing fields to feed the ducks. The frost and the mist touched everything with that almost unbearable beauty of the familiar transformed. We met a couple of parents coming back along the path from the local pre-school alone & I felt so glad to have the Pip-Pop with me. There are times — perhaps rarer now the littles are getting older — when I know that one day, not so very long from now, I would give anything to be back in this moment. And that thought reminded me of the lines from Richard Hugo’s poem that I’d read earlier, in the still quiet house, the pool of lamp light falling on this table that used to belong to …

The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud | edge of evening

Rereading: The Sentimentalists

When I was younger, and we had come to Henry’s house alone in those solitary summers of my father’s disappearance, I had imagined that the past really existed, semi-submerged, in Henry’s backyard. Wouldn’t that be enough for anyone? I’d thought. To explain that certain sadness, which I identified sometimes in him. A sadness that would make you, when you saw it, want to pull the edges of your own life up around you, and stay there, carefully, inside.  Now, though, I find it difficult to believe that anything is ever buried in the way that I had once supposed. I believe instead that everything remains. At the very limit; the exact surface of things. So that in the end it is not so much what has been subtracted form a life that really matters, but the distances, instead, between the things that remain.The Sentimentalists, Johanna Skibsrud I have a bookcase, the bookcase B bought me for my 30th birthday, in which I keep only the books that have struck me in some special world-changing way. Many of them …

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald | edge of evening

Penelope Fitzgerald: The Bookshop

In 1959 Florence Green occasionally passed a night when she was not absolutely sure whether she had slept or not. This was because of her worries as to whether to purchase a small property, the Old House, with its own warehouse on the foreshore and to open the only bookshop in Hardborough. The uncertainty probably kept her awake. Seven years ago, when I turned thirty, we were in East Anglia to celebrate the wedding of our friends A & I. We spent the eve of my birthday in the small coastal town of Southwold. T was fifteen months old. We walked on the beach with her, looking out into the bleak North Sea, then sat on a bench outside a pub drinking pints of Adnams while she watched us from her pushchair. The skies were vast and pearly with opalescent cloud. It was our first hotel stay with a baby and when she’d fallen asleep we read together in the bathroom, taking it in turns to lie in the bath. The next morning it was raining. We ate …

We love: Rasmus and the Tramp

Rasmus was sitting in his regular notch in the linden tree, thinking about things that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Potatoes were at the top of the list. Cooked, with gravy on them for Sunday dinner they were all right, but when they kept on sprouting in the field and had to be dug up — then they shouldn’t be tolerated. Thanks to our sweet neighbour, a retired teacher who had read this one to her classes many times over, we have just finished Rasmus and the Tramp (Rasmus and the Vagabond in the US) by Astrid Lindgren, famous for her Pippi Longstocking stories. It was a very special read for this family, and for the five year-old Moose in particular, because it’s the first time that he’s ever encountered his name in print. And a huge thrill for the one who gave him such an unusual name (for the UK at least — he’d be commonplace in Estonia or Scandinavia), to have such a feisty, resourceful and kind namesake to read to him about. Rasmus …

The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald: The Golden Child

“[Lorna Sage’s] critical sensors were tuned by days and nights and years of continual, voracious, scrupulously fine reading: at her memorial service in April 2001, Victor Sage, her first husband, recalled with dry wit marathon sessions during which Lorna would, for example, ‘do Scott’, that is, read the entire oeuvre of Sir Walter Scott, one book after another, including titles long forgotten.” from Marina Warner’s introduction to ‘Moments of Truth’ by Lorna Sage When I decided to read/re-read all of Penelope Fitzgerald’s books this year, I truly thought that I could be like Lorna Sage. Well, Lorna Sage, in focus if not sensitivity. Fitzgerald’s oeuvre is relatively small: nine novels, three biographies and a book of short stories, plus her collected letters and a volume of selected writings. Her novels are slim. I thought it would be easy enough to read them one after another. But here we are at the start of May and I have only managed one. * I had a number of false starts with Fitzgerald’s first novel, The Golden Child. I …

Postcard from now: the moon split in two

I just went into the garden, looking for an excuse to write something here. I could tell you how the sky this morning was pure blue & as I walked home from town with a coffee in one hand and the pushchair in the other, everything seemed full of possibility. Always, I’m amazed how the weather can affect me so deeply. (Caffeine too, of course.) And how, when we got to our singing class, the Pip-Pop was so sweet, so beautiful, his voice piping and clear. ‘Who has got red castanets?’ ‘I have!’ I could tell you how last night when I went to yoga, the sky was clear. The stars bright & precise. The moon split in two: half lit, half shadowed. I could tell you that when it turned out that there was no yoga, I ran back home; through the car park, past the school. Breathless, lungs filled with river-cold air. I could tell you that the garden, though full of scaffolding and mud, is also full of promise. Rose leaves unfurling. …

Wanderings & wonderings

Earlier in the month, our customary January picnic for B’s birthday. Another year, another Iron Age hill fort. This year was much, much colder. The pushchair, wheels jammed with mud, was abandoned half-way up the path, and collected again on our way back a couple of hours later. Whenever I think I might be safe to be let out into the countryside, I make a mistake like this. Who would try to push a Maclaren buggy up a very muddy hill? In our defense, we’ve just given our Phil & Ted’s — perfect for muddy walks — to a friend, desperate to rock her newborn to sleep in her living room. Anyway, mistakes were made, but fun — of a very muddy kind — was had, & the Pip-Pop proved himself to have some very sturdy walking legs. From the top, on a clear day, you can see the Isle of Wight. We couldn’t see that far, but the wind buffeting us up there was so strong that it sounded very much like the sea.

Bluets

“I will admit […] that writing does do something to one’s memory — that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs, in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve.” from Bluets by Maggie Nelson On Saturday afternoon the winter sun filled the living room with long slants of light and I stretched out on the sofa & read the whole of Bluets, a pencil in my hand, a cat on my lap. Oh what rare bliss! To read a book in a single sitting and follow the wandering path of someone’s thoughts from start to finish. A small boy with a ‘deep cough’ lay on the rug beside me building an intricate system of cogs and asking a question for each of the 95 pages of the book, but that didn’t take away from my pleasure. Bluets is a poet’s meditation on blue — “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color”. Nelson weaves art, science and philosophy …

Under the tree

1. Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, Hermione Lee; 2. Sweet Peas for Summer: How to Create a Garden in a Year, Laetitia Maklouf; 3. Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City, Dan Pearson. Well, okay, there are a few other things that I want for Christmas too. A few things that might have tumbled into my Amazon basket before I’d actually managed to buy anything for anyone else. What can I say? But I wasn’t as naughty as I could have been: they’re safely tucked away in a box at the bottom of the wardrobe, waiting for someone to wrap them & give them to me on Christmas day. Hmm. Thinking about all the other wrapping also waiting to be done, it might have to just be enough to open the box on the big day. An abridged version of the Penelope Fitzgerald biography was beautifully read on Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago by Penelope Wilton (already vanished from the iPlayer I’m afraid). Having read nearly all her books (just a couple tucked up my …