Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Things that make me want to give it away

I read this last night (in the bath, as it happens), and it struck me as a stroke of pure storytelling genius.

The slippers are made to last one day – this day. They're folded out of varnished paper, with a twinkle in it. We had to go all the way to the markets at the Crossways to find a paperbinder who did shoes the old way with no glue, just sheer skill of folding and knowledge of a girl's own foot and a girl's own walk holding the creation together.
(From Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan, Allen and Unwin, 2004)

Without wanting to sound fawning, Margo is one of those writers, like Sonya Hartnett, who makes the rest of us consider turning off the computer, or hanging up the quill.

But isn't that gorgeous? Only a true master of their craft could, in one paragraph – a mere 68 words – create such a perfect snapshot of a fantasy world. And by world, of course I include the cultural aspects of that place. These paper bridal slippers fuse something that we recognise and something other-worldly at once.

If you – and Margo – will indulge me one more quote, this is from another part of the same book, and is speaking about death:

Tonight it's come for my nan, and it gathers her up out of the thing that was her self, up out of her own bones into its dark, dirty, soft, soft breast, unfisting her hands from the front of her nightshirt, laying down her remains, moving her on from us like a storm cloud dragging its rain.

It's the 'unfisting her hands from the front of her nightshirt' that really wins me. That's so much more powerful than the oft-trotted-out idea that death is just a falling asleep, rather than something we resist at the core of our being. It's good – no, it's great – stuff.


(If you're reading this via Facebook Notes: this post is redirected from my 'head vs desk' blog.)

1 comment:

lynnpriestley said...

Totally agree with you, James. Hartnett blows me away, the way her mind works and how she pins that to paper. And Margo is the same. Kate Di Camillo does it for me, too. But I am so grateful they are around to show me the beautiful potential of words well weaved. The details tell the story.