From left to right: Jean Rhys, Carson McCullers, Primo Levi
“I will tell just one more story… and I will tell it with the humility and restraint of him who knows from the start that his theme is desperate, his means feeble, and the trade of clothing facts in words is bound by its very nature to fail.” – Primo Levi
I always tell others my writing can’t come from a place of true contentment, but I find in these increasingly depressing – and depressed times, that melancholia is no guarantee of good writing either, producing merely a gush of desperate musings. Writing flecked with anger and indignation can be passionate and fascinating, but it also comes from a place of bias and imprecision. The point is to achieve some sort of equilibrium, but how? The world and my brain are both not particularly friendly places at the moment.
Sometimes it seems words are over-hyped – they are compromised and corrupted and bound to fail.
But still I am bound to try – and fail, because even an imperfect tool and imperfect pieces are better than silence and falsity.
On another note, have just discovered the writings of M.K.F. Fisher, arguably last century’s greatest food writer, and am utterly enamoured. So much life and tragedy runs through her pin-sharp discussions of bouillabaisse and bread! Truly, for her, the world is contained in a jar of strawberry jam, and every meal is cause for not only celebration but the discovery of new stories and the satiation of new needs. Just finished ‘The Gastronomical Me’ and will now seek out her entire oeuvre.
Hungry person – in every which way, that I am, I love food memoirs, a narrow genre to which very few great books belong. The last decent read was Gabrielle Hamilton’s ‘Blood Bones and Butter’, and I have always loved Nigel Slater’s ‘Toast’. At their best, life with all its setbacks and longings is filtered through meals both necessary and indulgent – so much loveliness, but so much bloodiness too.
Truly, food in all its preparation and consumption is not a place for the faint of heart, just like life itself. The kitchen is as much gladiator’s arena as domestic haven, and for that I love it more so than ever. In fact, I am now semi-inspired to take up proper cooking again, after having survived on noodles and pasta for a decade.