Monday, October 30, 2017

Contentment - reading and a good day's work

‘Now I close the door and return to my life a little tired but also with that modest contentment and gratitude of those who enjoy their work. This must be boring to read, as there is really no drama. The deeper I am in this routine, the better things are. My appetite for music, film, books, paintings and the people I care about increases. I have never understood why.’ 
Writer Hisham Matar on his working day in a recent Guardian Review

I had kept the cutting of that feature, as, far from boring to read, it articulates that feeling of quiet satisfaction we have after a good day's work and how our 'appetite' for other things is stimulated by said feeling and the routine that enables it.

Another cutting I had in my folder was an interview with writer Lucy Hughes-Hallett, in which she said the following about novels, so pertinent in today's political landscape:

‘I think getting inside other people’s heads, even if they are imaginary people, is very important. One life isn’t enough and when things start to go really bad politically is when people forget to see the other side’s point of view. That’s the way in which fiction can be useful.’ Guardian Review, 13 May 2017

Hughes-Hallett wrote her first novel at age 65 (having previously written non-fiction, including The Pike, about Gabriele D'Annunzio). I find mid- and late-life forays into new territory inspiring and reassuring - it is never too late to begin something.

The only painting I have done in the last couple of weeks was a few brushstrokes on the above painting by my nephew, a portrait of Daisy the cat (who refused to pose with it), but while I am itching to get back to the easel, other work has been fulfilling, and I have cleared time and space for projects I want to complete in the next few months. 

One day each week or fortnight is dedicated to new-house tasks (it feels weird to say that after over two years, but there is still so much to do) and gardening (we harvested the last tomatoes,courgettes and potatoes and cleared most of the polytunnel this week), and there have been impromptu day trips (to Inis Meáin, where I lay on a rock in the sun in an attempt to sleep off a migraine that had started on the boat and enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the lingering pain) and events and of course my day job. So time in the studio has been limited, but I am making the most of those moments.

And I have been reading more than ever. Twice in the last month I read a book in a day (a rare luxury, admittedly). I got Josephine Hart's The Reconstructionist in the library. Damage is one of my favourite books, and this one is as good. I love her raw, haunting writing style. I finished Shirley Jackson's biography (a brick of a book I nearly bought in London, even though I only had hand luggage), which was a fascinating insight into the mind that conceived such unsettling glimpses into the human psyche, and am dipping in and out of Frances Borzello's book on women's self portraits, so as to savour it. I also bought Siri Hustvedt's latest collection of essays.

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