Friday, May 3, 2013

Shock of recognition

 In the garden, April 2013

"There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.
   Those who are lucky enough to find it, ease like water over a stone, on to its fluid contours, and are home. 
   Some find it in the place of their birth; others may leave a seaside town, parched, and find themselves refreshed in the desert. There are those born in rolling countryside who are really only at ease in the intense and busy loneliness of the city.
   For some, the search is for the imprint of another; a child or a mother, a grandfather or a brother, a lover, a husband, a wife, or a foe. 
   We may go through our lives happy or unhappy, successful or unfulfilled, loved or unloved, without ever standing cold with the shock of recognition, without ever feeling the agony as the twisted iron in our soul unlocks itself, and we slip at last into place."

The above is the first page of Damage by Josephine Hart. I started reading it on the University Park & Ride bus going to work. Part of me wishes I had picked a more dramatic backdrop, as I will always remember where I was when I read something that hit me like these words did, but then again it doesn't matter, and maybe the experience needed the contrast of mundane surroundings.

I won't write more about it here; my posts about books tend to simply be recommendations and a way to remember and archive excerpts and quotes, not reviews with summaries (incidentally, this week Gretchen Rubin explained why she won't describe the books she recommends - I don't necessarily agree, but I get what she means), but here is what Ted Hughes, who always found the right words, had to say about this book:

"Damage is really a poem. The peculiar passion in it evoked by the characters. It is too much for them. It comes from somewhere else like the passion in certain singers that hi-jacks the song. Lorca says somewhere that 'the poem that pierces the heart like a knife has yet to be written', but I felt that kind of knife dangling somewhere in Damage."

And I think the opening sentence deserves inclusion in those lists of 100 Best First Sentences in Literature.


  1. Oh man, you should see the stack of books I'm attempting to read at the moment. Ah! I ordered Authenticity, which reminds me that I need to go to the library to pick it up... Although it sounds intriguing, Damage will have to wait! :) Re: Photo: Don't you love this time of year? I am blissfully soaking it up.

    1. Yes, it is so nice to see everything growing and the colours of spring. Hope you enjoy Authenticity! x

  2. They say reading is good for the soul. If that's the case, your soul is very well-nourished :)

    1. Thanks, Keith - yes, books are definitely soul food.