Sunday, June 17, 2012

why she writes

I was very recently introduced to the author Alice Thomas Ellis by a friend--so recently, in fact, that I haven't yet had the chance to read any of her fiction. But I've borrowed a book of weekly columns that she wrote under the title "Home Life."

So far they are very delightful, written very loosely in a spirit of play, dancing along a train of thought without worrying about wrapping all the ends up. My favorite, so far, is one called "Power of Speech." The opening paragraph:

I have a work by Mrs Beeton which she wrote for the 'smaller establishment': that is, a household with only a cook, a couple of maids and a boy to carry the coal. She says firmly, 'On entering the kitchen invariably say "Good morning Cook."' OK, you ponder, but what if Cook is out on the area steps dallying briefly with the muffin man? What if your household is so small you don't have a cook? Still, many housewives talk to themselves. I often say things aloud when I spill the milk or trip over the cat and there's no one here to listen. I plod round M&S muttering "prawns, butter, underpants" because otherwise I would forget what I'm doing there, and so do a lot of other ladies. One has to keep talking or one loses the knack. When the children were very small I spent weeks alone with them high up in the Welsh hills and I used to lose the power of speech. I would return to London bereft of all vocabulary, communicating in grunts and diddums talk. You feel a fool asking, for instance, Professor Sir Alfred Ayer if he would care for an icky bitty more soup in his ickle bowl.
 I totally wander around the grocery store muttering my shopping list under my breath, and I always say things when I'm the only one at home to hear them.

Writing of this sort is one of the many kinds that makes me want to blog. She takes the stuff of everyday living and turns it into something enjoyable, sheds a new light on it. And I love her for not having some great and profound point at the end of her columns--it's about the sheer and slightly wacky delight of life. One of the reasons I don't post more often than I do--aside from, you know, being kind of lazy--is that I have a high standard for what I want my posts to do. They must be entertaining or thought-provoking or beautiful to the extent that whoever reads them is impressed, or at least somewhat interested. I think about writing far too much; I write far too little.

Which is a problem for me beyond just blogging. Oh well.

But that joy, that enjoyment that sparkles in her words. She is having fun. That is why she writes.

1 comment:

  1. i talk to myself when i'm home alone too! and i often pray aloud when i'm driving somewhere by myself. too funny.

    p.s. i am reading style, sex and substance right now and really enjoying it!