Thursday, 26 April 2007

The Present Chiefly

It's pointless to write about A Note In Music, now that I come to think of it, because it changes for me on every reading. A few brief thoughts about it, though. There is the obvious conflict between north and south, provincial and metropolitan, past and future, but it is difficult to determine who comes out of it better. No one, really. Grace - who is anything but graceful - does nothing, having once loved, yet there is the ghost of promise, of knowledge, of perseverence about her, as if she is on the brink of guessing at a secret which, Miss Lehmann obliquely suggests, may not in any case be there. I wonder whether Grace is named for a grace note, one which slides quickly on to the main pitch and is brought into being only to be an echo.
The note of the title is Landor: "But the present, like a note in music, is nothing but as it appertains to what is past and what is to come."
At one point Clare concludes: "One must never let one's past actions bind one with remorse or regret, she said; but pass on at once and shape the future." Pass on she does, but into shapelessness; she goes to see Hugh off (in a hat like Mercury's hat), but it is she who vanishes. "Well - there was always a time of loneliness, depression, after the first excitement of the start, the bustle of departure." Quite. "He hoped to goodness nothing boring would happen to her" is quickly followed by the question: "Why live?" That is getting to the point perhaps rather too emphatically.
"The secret was to look to the present chiefly, to the future a little, to the past scarcely at all... " But I wonder whether the effect of the book, on me at least, is not to make one feel that that is their problem. The rootlessness, the drifting, the ennui, the nothingness is a product of not being secured in the past. It's a question Rosamond Lehmann asks. I'm not sure she answers it. But perhaps, if Uncle Zip is right, she kens the noo.

That last phrase, for those who didn't grow up as Scots Presbyterians, is a reference to the minister who tells his congregation that they will all be cast into Hell, and there they will wail to the Lord, Oh Lord, we didnae ken, and the lord will look down and He will say: Weel, ye ken the noo.

Perhaps it was the same minister who was explaining that in Hell there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth when a voice from the back pews asked: What if ye havenae goat ony teeth? Pause for thought before the response: Teeth will be provided.

sf: Other Days, Other Eyes (the Slow Glass fixup) Bob Shaw
crime: Love in Amsterdam, Nicholas Freeling
if you don't know it: The Healing Art, AN Wilson

reading: The Dumas Club, Arturo Perez-Reverte. I am going to write about Monte Cristo soon. It is the best thriller ever written. But I may also consider Raphael Sabatini.
lunch: too many chilli chicken legs and spring rolls, then lots of other chinese buffet stuff. dinner: leftovers.
music: Radio 3