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1 May 2015 in Poetry | Tags: "Hard Light", Barbara Bellows, Brick Books, Canadian authors, Heritage Newfoundland & Labrador, memoir, Michael Crummey, poem, poetry, www.brickbooks.ca | by Cheryl | 8 comments
“Hard Light” by Michael Crummey is proving to be one of those books where I dread reading the last page. Here … he retells and reinvents his father’s stories of outport Newfoundland and the Labrador fishery of a half century ago. Events long vanished are rendered here in myriad voices, with clarity and intensity of lived experience.
Today’s selection is at page 98.
‘At home on a cold winter’s night. The changing scenes of life. (1928)’
the night sky obscured by cloud.
On the tall ships I was taught
to steer by the stars,
took them for granted,
like a portrait of grandparents
hung in the hallway before
you came into the world.
There is a telescope on Mount Wilson
in California whose lens
weights 4 and one half tons
and measures 100 inches across –
they say it has mapped the heavens
for hundreds of millions of miles,
that the darkness is deeper than
we ever imagined.
New galaxies and constellations
discovered every day
and it is still only
the simplest things we understand.
The speed of light exceeds
eleven million miles a minute,
it travels through space
for thousands of years after
its star has collapsed;
it is possible
that all my life I have
taken my mark by
a body that does not exist.
A chunk of wood shifts in
through the window I watch
winter clouds drift and gather.
Clotted field of stars beyond them,
light rooted hard in darkness.
Publisher: Brick Books
A Letter to Barbara …
I finished reading ‘The Allegra Series‘ a few days ago and haven’t been able to pick up another book until I wrote you about how it affected me. I loved it! There is such precision and rich discipline inherent in your lush creativity, firmly rooted in a profound respect for your reader. You lead me into one captivating scene after another, graciously stepping aside to let me make of it what I would.
That your fascinating characters are utterly believable is as much a factor of your constraint in the reveal, the easing into their psyches and degrees of self-awareness as it is your unrestrained honesty. You expose their traits a layer at a time, luring me to an emergent understanding of the ‘whole’ character, deftly cracking open the window onto acceptance of their eccentricities … and their nasty bits.
Complex, brittle characters, you took me inside to look out, to see how each viewed their particular world, whether skewed, hopeful or dark, where I discovered a silken thread of madness in each.
Mona, through her research, plaits a mystifying backdrop for this extraordinary love story. I don’t like Mona, so completely self-absorbed and dangerously opportunistic. Her perception of the history between her and Brad is shocking, whether true or a figurative symbol, claiming as theirs the story of Philomela? If real, then Brad is a far more sinister character than he seems. If, figurative, then Mona is calculatingly evil. How skilfully you hook the explanation for their fractious connection, at least as Mona identifies it, into one sentence, near the end of the book. My jaw dropped.
Allegra is captivating. I love her flaws, her desire to push on despite, or perhaps because of, a devastating diagnosis. I am inspired by her passion, drive and sexual volatility even in the progression of her disability. I admire her stubborn refusal to give up on the notion she will recover, that the strength of her will is sufficient to drive the debilitating disease from her body, denial paramount in the desperate risks taken with her physical safety.
Allegra believes love has found her again in Brad, an enigma to the very end. His attraction to Allegra is suspicious from the beginning, appearing to serve a need he himself can’t figure out, something ugly left behind when Mona walked out on him and their child. I want to believe he doesn’t initially understand his own intentions, though they appear to be deeply self-serving once he gains a modicum of insight into the ‘why’. The proof rests in the fact he hides the paintings of Allegra portraying the downward spiral of her progressive illness. Brad is at once overly protective and negligently dismissive, always at Allegra to make preparations for the life of an invalid, even while she hums with the vibrancy of the artist, so alive and passionate.
I will always wonder whether Allegra finds Angeline.
Was this really your debut novel, Barabara?
LET THE TURF WARS BEGIN!
It’s time to turn the Canada Reads 2014 Top 40 list into a Top 10 list! See who made the regional lists and vote at Canada Reads by 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday November 3rd!
Explore the 2014 Top 40 Contenders.
Find out more about Canada Reads here.
Check out previous winners here.
Related Articles and Posts
- Canada Reads 2014 to Highlight Inspirational Novels, CBC News : Arts & Entertainment, 2 October 2013
- Canada Reads 2014 Seeks Inspirational Novels, Quill & Quire, 2 October 2013
- What Gets Left Out IS the Power in Writing Author, Lisa Moore, Speaks at WCDR, 17 June 2010