Saturday, March 07, 2009

Not being dead



My third blog-birthday passed the other day, without my realising it.

I've been rereading "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield - it's nonsense, really, but very good nonsense and I'm enjoying it a lot.

This is a quotation from it, and it expresses very well one of the reasons why I like writing: letters, diaries, the blog. It's also one of the reasons that I like reading. In case you haven't read it (and I recommend that you do) you need to know that the narrator works in a second-hand bookshop.


People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humour, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.

As one tends the graves of the dead, so I tend the books. I clean them, do minor repairs, keep them in good order. And every day I open a volume or two, read a few lines on pages, allow the voices of the forgotten dead to resonate inside my head. Do they sense it, these dead writers, when their books are read? Does a pinprick of light appear in their darkness? Is their soul stirred by the feather touch of another mind reading theirs? I do hope so. For it must be very lonely being dead.



20 comments:

  1. Oh yes! Keep writing; taking photos; making recordings ; making quilts or doing paintings or other works of art...anything to leave self behind when it is our turn to go.

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  2. That is a lovely (well, powerful) sentiment. I hope that something I have written survives my death and is read by someone too. I suppose I had better start writing something which has a fighting chance...!

    You've made me think with this post...

    Lesley x

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  3. The persistence of ideas, full of personality.

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  4. It is a kind of immortality, isn't it, writing? Maybe that's why I'm drawn to it, too.

    Congratulations on 3 years of blogging - long may you continue, for your own joy as well as for all your readers' enjoyment!

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  5. I refelct on this sentiment often. A good friend of mine died way too young last year and I sometimes revisit her blog to 'hear' her.

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  6. Oh...and congratulations on three years of blogging!

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  7. We read this for the Well Read Ladies bookclub/blog. I put sticky notes on the pages I really liked. This was one of the sections I sticky-noted! :) I loved it, too. :) It was good to be reminded of the passage! Thank you!

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  8. Oh, this is so true! People DO disappear when they die. This has been much on my mind lately. How final it is. A house is such a lonely place when the presence that made it alive is gone--forever. I avoid going there.....I must find this book, Isabelle.....and I must write something worthwhile so I will not completely disappear too.

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  9. This brought tears to my eyes, having lost two very dear friends in the last half year. What a wonderful piece of writing that is - I will have to find the book. Thank you, Isabelle, and once again I must tell you how greatly I enjoy your writing.

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  10. A lovely passage, and a book I must find. Thank you, Isabelle.
    To keep memories faithfully is a challenge, and probably only the written word can do it.
    Hopefully,blogging works, too!

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  11. Happy Bloggiversary (if that's the term used!) I'm reading Diana Athills 'Somewhere towards the End' in which she talks about old age, death and suchlike. Not at all depressing -it's humorous, powerful and ultimately uplifting.

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  12. I think this is why I love re reading my mother's old letters. I feel her presence -her essence.
    Happy Anniversary!

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  13. Oh that is a wonderful quote.

    I think like that too. The things I treasure from my grandmother are the personal letters she left. I just wish she had kept a diary.

    I have always kept a diary and I talk to it really - well, I talk to the readers. So maybe one day someone will read it and listen. I just don't want them listening to it now!! I often ponder who I will leave it to - a great-grandchild ideally, someone who has only a shadowy memory of who I am but for whom it would make me real (very horribly real - I am brutally honest in my diary about everything!).

    Congratulations on reaching your 3rd anniversary. You must have been in on blogging when it was very shiny and new.

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  14. Lovely.

    Happy third blogging birthday!

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  15. Ditto to all the above comments...I love the kind of writing that makes you think "beyond the square", or whatever it is they say these days. I can think of about 10 people I'd like to send this to, so I'll send them a link to your blog. Expect a few more visitors!

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  16. Wow Isabelle. Thank you for such a wonderful passage. And, while it wasn't necessarily meant to be, it's sure a good advertisement for the book, which sounds like a must read.

    And Happy Blog Birthday! You make it all look so easy LOL!

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  17. Happy third blog birthday! I really enjoyed reading that quote. I think I may enjoy the book too. I wonder if I fear death because I don't want to be forgotten? I'd best keep writing then!

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  18. Yes! Leaving behind your printed words............

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  19. Yes, as you know I liked that book too - it was written far better than the plot really deserved!

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