Friday, August 2, 2013

2 August 2013

Jim Crace [Effigie/Leemage/Writer Pictures]

from Jim Crace’s Harvest:

These are the moments when I most miss greater places — the market towns, the liberties of youth, the choices that I had and left behind. My land-born neighbors now are ditched and fenced against the outside world. They are too rooted in their soil, too planched and thicketed, to be at ease with newcomers. They are not used to hospitality and do not want to be. There’s not a village, sea to sea, that receives fewer strangers. In all the years since my and Master Kent’s arrival not one other new soul has settled here for long, or hoped to. Who, after looking at this place and with no secret interest or association, would choose to make a home among these frowning residents? But I am now part of it and part of them. I have become a frowner, too, and I have learned to make do with the kindom of close relatives, where anyone who is not blood is married to someone else who is. One family’s daughter is another’s niece, another’s aunt, and yet another’s daughter-in-law. And if you’re not a Saxton or a Derby or a Higgs yourself, you have a score of relatives who are. We live in a rookery. A cousinry, let’s say. And just like rooks we have begun to sound and look the same. So many grumps, so many corn-haired blonds, so many wave, oval beards, so many beryl eyes, so many thickset arms and legs, that no one needs to mention them, or even notice them, unless reminded by an out-of-pattern visitor like me. But even I have found myself with thickset arms and legs, though I arrived as thin and gawky as Mr. Quill. . . .

So Mr. Quill’s true account of here and now is not as honest as he hopes. He’s colored and he’s flattened us. No shadows and no shade. We are too mauve and blue; he’s planted longpurples everywhere. There are no climbs or slopes. The land is effortless: a lie. He hasn’t captured time: how long a walk might take; how long a piece of work might take; how long the seasons or the nights must last. No man has ever seen this view. But it is beautiful, nevertheless. And so, come to that, although it’s hard to acknowledge it, is Mr. Quill’s map of the sheep fields that are looming over us. This chart is even busier with color, and more patterned to the eye. Its patchwork is much tidier. The fields are smaller, broken up and edged. The dark of the wood, with its clustered symbols showing trees, has almost disappeared. I cannot find an eye or ear. The brawny-headed man has lost his face.

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