Friday, 27 December 2013

The Years


Elmore Leonard advises against opening a book with the weather or wasting plot time describing objects or places. For conversion to film that is sterling advice, naturally, and there's no reason why a reader can't be an involved part of that snappily paced adventure on paper either. One is allowed some fun, one hopes. It's Christmas, so I'm out on a round of visits and meals and this afternoon have been paddling in the sea sipping port and brandy out of a hip flask, so I don't have a copy of the book I want to talk about with me and these words might have an uneven pace, a drift and giggle gait. Clouds drift, beautiful puffy ball gown clouds, the sky is a Wedgwood dome. We're at Bluebell Barns admiring the mackerel shoal sculpture. Later the solar light will catch them shimmering silver in make-believe waters. We are warm on the corner sofa with a clear view and strong coffee. Three dogs sleeping. I shall get back to the point now. The Years is the last book that Virginia Woolf published in her lifetime and if you have time for weather and little details there is something here that makes the whole so much more than the sum of the parts: the description is the narrative. In brief: the novel follows the lives of the Pargiter family from the 1880s to the 1930s (the then present day) and was first envisaged as a sort of long essay of stories about the social and economic life of women. Published in 1937 it is not a new book and it is possible you have already heard of it/read it/studied it: if so, it is worth a revisit, I think.
A very good review here if you want more information (yes, this may be cheating. But my friends are making Bellinis and the mackerel require further admiration.)
The details are not little, after all, they are how life is, and how life is, is important.



8 comments:

  1. Ooo, enjoy the bellinis.

    The only Virginia Woolf I've read is "Kew Gardens" - very odd, but certainly memorable. I can certainly imagine her turning her nose up at the idea that descriptions of objects and places aren't important.

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  2. I have to admit I have not read any Virginia Woolf yet, but she has long been on my list. So I will get around to reading this sometime, I have no doubt. :)

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  3. Do you think modern, somewhat smart-ass writers advise others in their profession against things like 'opening with the weather' because greats who came before did it and spawned so many facsimiles that it *became* a tired practice--not that it always has been one, inherently?

    'drift and giggle gait'

    You are inimitable.

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  4. Kew Gardens is actually one I haven't read, Mr Squid: odd and memorable sounds about right though! Hope you like her Trish: it took me a while to discover her work properly and now I'm smitten. Suze, you have a totally valid point there- as you know I am partial to weather and I hate to see it ruined by too much pathetic fallacy. Still a little drift and giggle but home now and enjoying settling back in to the domestic nook. Happy yuletides everyone :-) xx

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  5. It was in whatever our assigned reader was in Intro Lit. Norton Anthology maybe? It was completely different from everything else we read - more a mood piece than an actual narrative.

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  6. I haven't read any Woolf since college. Not remembering what, at the moment.

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  7. You review was lovely but your descriptions of the weather, places and objects was even better. So screw Elmore Leonard. :D

    Two hip flasks, holstered like a pair of six-shooters? Or one hip flask with a mix of port *and* brandy? Do those go together? Does it matter when you're paddling in December?

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  8. Think I will look up the Kew Gardens mood piece, I'm intrigued! Fabulous beard Mr Leon btw. Stephanie it was port and brandy mixed which is dangerous and fabulous and keeps your toes warm... do try it but don't go out deep... :-))

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