Reading Matters: April

 

“I love you. I’m glad I exist.”

I came to Amy’s party late and almost missed the boat. Amy died in March this year. Her recent prominence eminating from among other things, an exquisite love letter extolling the virtues of her husband, Jason and why he must be dated following her imminent death from cancer.

Amy was 52.

Why does that matter so much to me?

52 is exactly my age and Amy was born on the day I was given up for adoption in April 1965.

Synchronicity

If you view Amy’s TED talk: 7 notes on life you will understand the synchronicity of that.

Every day ordinariness and more

Amy was a mum to three, a wife, a prolific children’s author and facilitator of cool things and I fell in love with her writing. I love the simplicity, the authenticity, the straightforward directness of her uncomplicated style and her attention to the glorious every day detail and meaning of life.

In my work study I have a plaque my husband brought me on our honey moon in the Lakes it reads:

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Amy introduces herself like this:

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And that’s the point.

Occasional writings and random notes

I too am a writer, a camera, an observer in my life and my work is captured in notes, jottings and scraps. In the past I have dismissed my work for its brevity. How can such brief jottings and scraps, occasional writings and random notes be effective?

Amy notes in her chronology of life her own introduction to a genre of “occasional writings, random notes” and how her discovery is tremendously exciting to her. And in turn, this discovery was tremendously exciting and reassuring for me and goes to prove that a path exists already made by those who have walked the path before and ahead of us to lay the trail. Our task is only to pick up the baton and to follow on.

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This is my own reality as a mother, a wife, an employee, a cook, a housewife, a taxi, a lover, a fashion junkie, a beauty expert, a counsellor somehow every role is for another but reading and writing is for me.

Time becomes this precious commodity. Have women always experienced this in their creative life? In identifying so strongly with Amy’s style of writing, I feel kinship and a kind of peace.

I am grateful.

I belong.

In passing, I am reminded too of the work of Lydia Davis, a Pulitzer prize winner who adopted and worked with the same short delivery style – I wrote more about Lydia here. I never felt that her stories were short stories rather that they defied convention and became a new art form in them selves, beautiful and stylish none the less for carving out a new style and not being identical to the old paternalistic writing patterns that have preceded. See above!

TextBook Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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I opened the book and was initially uncertain. What struck me were the check box lists – in any other hands it could be the content would be trite. Lists of things are a personal hate along side tick boxes and personal stock checks

But I read on because I had viewed this film: the beckoning of lovely and had been moved enough to know I wanted to find out more. I was so glad that I did.

Ma’am, would you like a push?

The writing is great fun, dripping with resonance – I recognise myself in so much of what Amy writes – its is refreshing and encouraging – this particular piece is me
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Highly recommended.

Amy’s work reminded me of a poem by Wendy Cope: The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.
— Wendy Cope

“Its hard to be sad around a bendy straw”

Later that month I brought a copy of Amy’s prize winning book :Encyclopaedia of an Ordinary Life

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Again a book that had completely passed me by and made me so happy to read and bring to you. A woman writing of her life, her ordinariness . Is it this that touched me? I don’t know but I do know that her writing has moved me on as a writer and blown possibility write open from the side lines.

What a gift.

Thank you Amy Krouse Rosenthal, it is a pleasure to have spent April with you.

The Gandhi tribute above is from a quote played at the end of Amy’s film about travelling the subway: going nowhere fast together Hey, play the movie, its a fitting tribute to someone who did just enough to leave a profound heart shaped mark on the world around her.

Try pairing these books with the Common Years by Jilly Cooper
still one of my favourite books ever, a distillation of diaries across a number of years walking on and living round Putney Common in the early 70s.

Rest in piece little lady and may you rise in glory, every day.

Who I Am

And yet I began April in a completely different frame of mind!

Driving home early one evening across the sunlit moor, I was listening to “Front Row” on Radio 4 and an interview with the actress Charlotte Rampling. Ms Rampling – honey throated, gauloise smoking francophile was speaking candidly about her childhood and family secrets. The secrets that defined her. Secrets that define me. Intrigued I bought a copy of her book “Who I am” and set about trying to understand her life and her story.

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But the book is an enigma.

Perhaps a perfect mirror for Ms Rampling who is the very definition of an enigma to me. Such perfect raw beauty in her youth – so eye brow thick and heavy as she grows older, but such grace. Is her life an act? Her book would suggest so for the very nature of the dark secret Charlotte bore to the end of her mother’s life clearly has defined her life. Her childhood was spent in the close company of her even more beautiful sister whose early death haunted the family but whose manner of death was kept from her mother who could not bear the loss.
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Translated from the French and a shared writing partnership with Christophe Bataille, I loved the generous beauty of the book: gorgeous to look at, tactile and sexy to hold – the weight of the book feels voluptuous in my hands and the glossy pictures and quality paper, make this a very special book. I could have brought this book alone to stare at the front cover and wonder how anyone can be blessed with such perfection. I have actually caught myself coming back to the cover simply to stare and wonder – and all those Gauloises …

Takes me back to my own consulate smoking days listening to Hazel O’Connor with my sixth form school friends, planning out our futures laughing over the boys and bombing round town in an old E reg bottle green mini.

Blink and its over .

And for further advice on that, see Amy.

Much love xoxo

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