I’ve just finished reading Marina Lewycka’s We Are All Made of Glue. Interesting for a few reasons; Kevin’s reading the Man Booker Prize winner at the moment and Lewycka was asked to comment (for R4’s Front Row I think) on whether a “comic novel” winning such an accolade was a good or a bad thing, also, I thought I’d read the book already and so it’s felt like, well, an extra treat to read. It is a funny, sad and gentle book.
I like gentleness in literature. I’m not in the least ashamed of saying so either. I like – in fact, I love – The Wind in the Willows. I greatly admire writers like Ronald Blythe and poets like Gerrard Manley Hopkins who use their keen eyes to pick out and then illuminate the gentleness of the world around them (much as Robin Tanner did with his glorious etchings). Of course literature should provoke as well, cage-rattling moves writers and readers on in many ways, but surely it’s allowed to soothe too?
In my “day job” I help teenagers to create theatre and I spend a lot of time making them appreciate that an audience can be gripped by a very small, very beautiful, very ordinary moment just as tightly as by a roller-coaster ride of personal, national or even international disasters. You don’t need to drag your poor (usually teenage) protagonist through a termination, a friend’s suicide and months of self-harm; you could, actually, allow an enchanted tree to grow in the garden of their East Bristol semi or you could show them slowly, ordinarily and triumphantly falling in love.
So, I shall go on littering my bookshelves and my brain with gentle writing. I’ll even keep trying to write gently too. There’s nothing wrong with cricket matches, picnics and messing about in boats and I hope always to retain my inner Moley, to gaze at the ordinary beauty I’m surrounded by here in Hill and be able to whisper, “Oh my!”.