Friday 25 March 2016

Crows and all that

I have a couple of brief contributions to the Weirdathon. Up first is 'Grief is the thing with feathers' by Max Porter that I bought at Waterstones the other day. The cover felt familiar, as if I had read about it somewhere when it came out last year. Like the others I have picked it has an unusual format, with three voices speaking in short bursts, some pieces very like poems; the father, the boys and the crow. The crow has arrived with the death of the mother; they seem to admit he is imaginary, but his presence and impact is very real. He tells them stories, and they tell each other stories; sometimes they are like fairy tales, sometimes a recounting of real events. Mostly they talk about losing her. Here Dad sums up the difference between what the child and the adult experience:

"There was very little division between their imaginary and real worlds, and people talked of coping mechanisms and normal childhood and time. Many people said 'You need time', when what we needed was washing powder, nit shampoo, football stickers, batteries, bows, arrows, bows, arrows.

There was very little division between my imaginary and real worlds, and people talked of sensible workloads and recovery periods and healthy obsessions. Many people said 'You need time', when what I needed was Shakespeare, Ibn, Arabi Shostakovich, Howling' Wolf." (p.38)

The whole book is about how it feels to miss someone, in the many and various ways that they can be missed. It is a very intense little book, it is almost the ordinariness of all their words and experiences that make it so real and visceral:

We all used to get a lot of trouble from Mum for flecking the mirror with toothpaste.

For a few years we flecked and spat and over-brushed and our mirror was a white-speckled mess and we all took guilty pleasure in it.

One day Dad cleaned the mirror and we all agreed it was excellent.

Various other things slipped. We pissed on the seat. We never shut drawers. We did these things to miss her, to keep wanting her.'" (p.49)

so I went home to talk to Crow about parting company.

I couldn't find him. I did find that the boys had flung wet balls of toilet paper onto the bathroom ceiling, which pissed me off because I'd told them that it stained the paint, and by the time I'd cleaned it up and cooked their dinner and put them to bed I realised, of course, that Crow had gone." (p.108)

Sorry, kind of hard to describe what this was, whatever it was it provoked some very strong emotional reactions, tiny words or images bringing memories up from nowhere. Just lovely.

1 comment:

  1. Love the title of this post, loved your thoughts. This book looks so cool/'s definitely going on my wishlist!


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