the m john harrison blog

Month: February, 2023

Hugh Adlington on Penelope Fitzgerald’s working papers and draft versions, London Review of Books 19.12.2019–

“Fitzgerald believed that an original image or idea ‘always stays so to speak latent, within the novel when it’s finished’. What is omitted … is important because it shadows or informs what remains. She went further: ‘I can only say that [these orginal ideas or images] seem to me close to the mysterious individual life of the novel which you can recognise whether you’re reading it or writing it.” (His insert in square brackets.)


in full sunlight

On holiday recently, to celebrate my new & I hope final status as a relaxed, cheerful & fulfilled human being, I bought a novelty plate to eat breakfast from. Sturdy, off-white & sized conveniently between a side plate & a dinner plate, it would easily acommodate an egg-cup, a teaspoon & two slices of bread. Best of all, it features the image of a rooster in energetic colours, and displays the legend IT’S A BRAND NEW DAY! Nothing could fit better with our striped Cornish mugs and the bright red jacket we bought to insulate the cafetiere. I love my new plate. But sometimes, when I catch sight of it in full sunlight on the crowded drying rack by the sink, I’m dazzled & see only the words IT’S A BRAND & think: true.

anna & james

Anna, unaware of these judgements, took home two bottles of Fleury and a tub of pistachio ice cream then telephoned Marnie and conducted a short but satisfying row; after which they agreed to more broadly respect one another’s feelings and Anna listened to news of Marnie’s boyfriend’s job. Her plan for the rest of the evening had been to turn on her fifty-inch Sony and eat all the ice cream while watching an ageing wildlife presenter gambol in the brackish waters of the North Sea with the half-dozen mouldy-looking grey seals left in the Shetland Islands; but, four of the animals having the previous week contracted human norovirus, the spectacle was cancelled. Anna wandered about. After her exchange with Marnie the house seemed hot and airless. She took a shower. She stood looking out of the kitchen doorway with a glass of Fleury in her hand. Called the cat. He didn’t come.

“James, you depressing animal,” she said.

–from Empty Space, final novel of the KT trilogy, Gollancz 2012

‘The “ominous frenzy” of Kyoto will soon be replaced by an archaic calm, or at least an attempt to maintain one. The man soon finds himself outside the city – though, somehow, the narration is able to claim that he remains inside it.’ Read my review of A Mountain to the North, A Lake to The South, Paths to the West, A River to the East by the fabulous László Krasznahorkai (tr. Ottilie Mulzet, published by Tuskar Rock Press), in today’s TLS–