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Anne Michaels, writing that matters

September 30, 2009

We have a beautiful modern library in Groningen (NL). The extensive English novel collection has sustained me in my 24 years here.

Reading occupies a large place in Rende’s and my lives, partly because we don’t have a TV.

Every week I go to the Groningen library and search for new books. I walk through the stacked shelves talking to the authors of each book that I pull out. I say, ‘Matter! Write something that matters to you so it can matter to me’. 

I get attracted to titles and colours and covers, but 99% of the books I pull out, I put back. It is such a gamble, spending 200 or more pages with someone, in their head, in the world they have created. Where will they take you? To old grudges of theirs revisited? To a vision of hopelessness? or to a new world of hope and magic.

I’m looking for light and meaning…. and love. And Anne Michaels writes because she cares. What matters to her is the world,  so intensely, it edges on pain:

‘on a table graced with stillness and smells, the wild order of plums’.

 Flat on my back, I dug a hole in the sky. I inhaled the sea until I was light-headed, and floated above the island.
Alone, in space, I imagined the Antarctic auroras, billowing designs of celestial calligraphy, our small portion of the sky like the corner of an illuminated manuscript’.

‘On Zakynthos I tended a garden of lemon balm and basil in a square of light on the floor.’

These quotes are from Fugitive Pieces.

I’m reading Winter Vault  now.  I hesitate to quote from it. All I can say is that each word is charged with meaning and purpose. The language is so beautiful, the sensibilities intense and eloquent. Reading it is like praying.

ok one tiny quote:

‘ Avery leaned overboard, dipped his teacup into the river, then set the circle of water next to him’.

The books I love most leave me in a state of constant gratitude;  thank you Anne Michaels for this,  ‘a circle of water’.

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