I haven't even finished this book, and I'm not rushing to, but I already want to share it. It contains twenty stories written in the first person, rooted in interior and domestic life. They're pensive, self-effacing, amusing and quiet. I'm especially drawn to the descriptions of objects, which are attentive and unabashedly romantic, though still (somehow, wonderfully) unsentimental.
The heroine has hard eyes but a deep soul, reminding me of Kerewin of The Bone People and Jake from Evie Wyld's All the Birds, Singing. Although I recoil from liking art for reasons of relating, I realize I share a facet with each of these characters.
But beyond the character, there's much else to love. The non-linear story-telling puts this book in league with Maggie Nelson's Bluets, or Eimear McBride's much lauded A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing (another book I loved).
But I recognize now I'm just rattling off other books I love. And I think that's something too. Quine wrote about science as a web of knowledge; we place certain facts at the centre of our web and all the strands connects, we build upon it, always operating inside the web that's premised on those basic scientific facts. I love thinking about this epistemological concept applied to art or style or personal taste. Writers including Beckett are at the centre of my bookish web. But all the books I've listed here connect both to him and to each other. And so, to look at one in isolation is to see only myopically what it means to me.
This is also why I'm incredibly coy about recommendations, because the way in which I choose what book to read next is a sort of magical process of discovery and synchronicity. Books may sit a long time on my shelves until they fall into the order of things and become the one to read next, the natural next step in a process that's all deeply connected.
And sometimes this doesn't work out. But often it does. But when it does so well, there's a feeling of a profoundly layered experience, one that's also highly personalized, selfish even. Like the book was meant for me just now, and we're speaking to each other in a secret language that lies beyond the words on the page. This is how I've felt as I've turned the pages of Pond.
The chapter To A God Unknown is - to me - especially a perfect piece of writing. Here's an excerpt:
"... it was possible, unavoidable really, to listen to the storm going around and around, and I knew it was an old one that had come back — it seemed to know exactly where it was and there was such intimacy in its movement and in the sound it made it as it went along and around and around. Yes, I thought, you know these mountains and the mountains are familiar with you also. No — it was not raging, it was not simply raging — I heard no element of anger in fact. How loud it was and yet so fragile, stopping and starting for a long time — it didn't know where to begin, but it was by no means frantic, either, not at all. I moved a web of lather about the roots of my hair and became immersed in the body of the storm; I knew its structure, saw its eyes, felt its past, and I empathised with its entreaty."
Pond can be purchased directly from The Stinging Fly. And, for the record: Stinging Fly has never put out a book I've regretted buying.