The title is a quote from ‘The Waste Land’ by T.S. Eliot. I thought it was a quotation/ borrowing in its turn, but there is no reference to it in the footnotes of that crazy/ wonderful poem.
Perhaps all writers are shoring fragments against their ruins. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing with this blog.
These fragments are what I want to take with me when I’m finally banished to a desert island. (The one on which Prospero was exiled.) When I finally retire to a cottage by the sea. When Mrs O. finally gives up on me.
This is not a ‘best of’ or ‘favourites’ list. These are fragments I have shored against my ruins.
Collected Poems by T.S. Eliot
Eliot’s poetry is meant to be ‘difficult’, but I think that’s only if you try to understand one big coherent theme or meaning from each poem. I regard them as mosaics; scrapbooks; palimpsests.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Perfect. I wish I could memorise more of it. The Arden edition, with the lovely cover and notes, of course. It was the first Shakepeare play I ever saw, at school. It was just because I knew the girl playing Miranda. (In a boys’ grammar school? Draw your own conclusions.) However, I had previously been introduced to Shakespeare through doing ‘Julius Caesar’ for O-level. Thank you, Mr Williams (sadly known as Spock, for obvious reasons.)
The Bible- Authorised Version
The ‘King James’ Bible. I know, I know, ‘Desert Island Discs’ allows the Bible and Shakespeare. This is not a Desert Island Discs list- but the language of the Authorised Version has so many links and resonances; and it’s a collection of fragments of its own. Of course, for most people of a certain age who in the past were regular church goers the language has had a very direct influence. It still does, no matter what faith we might be now.
The next books are in a way more personal.
No Highway and Most Secret by Nevile Shute
The first was given to me when I was convalescing from a virus; the second was my grandfather’s. (See My grandfather’s books: A gentle tribute to a gentle man.) They are just great stories. I couldn’t bear to be separated from them. They are the triumph of common but extraordinary people. I still want to write a blog about Shute, especially to persuade H. to read him, but now fear he may be too dated.
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
I also used to read this when I was really ill, along with Jeeves. Really ill, or really anxious. It was all I could bear. I usually skip the ‘interludes’, stories told to Mr Pickwick and his friends. For why I have this as a fragment, see ‘Pride and Prejudice’ below.
Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Any Jeeves. All Jeeves. Any Wodehouse. A release from reality. Invincibly sane. None of it matters. Yes, I know, he broadcast for the Nazis. Yes, it’s an outmoded class system. Does this face look bothered? (No, I don’t approve of the Nazis….. Oh come on, you know what I mean.)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I came to Austen late. I was put off by the ‘Janeites’, ladies particularly fond of her. I’m not being derogatory; they were usually very erudite. I just thought she was only for women. Now…. You know what happens in this book. It happens, every time, infallibly. Perhaps that’s why.
After that, there are so many others….
‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ by William Gibson, featuring Conrad, the Taoist assassin. Most of the works of Terry Pratchett, especially ‘The Thief of Time’- more Taoism, I feel. ‘The Wooden Horse’ and ‘Stolen Journey’ (see My grandfather’s books .) Then Shakespeare. Lots of it, including ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘King Lear’……..
Especially there are so many fragments in my head. They link, too. ‘The Tempest’ to ‘The Wasteland’, the Authorised Version to so many, Shakespeare to so many. There are echoes of ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse to all this.
Anyway. Just fragments.