Sunday, April 22, 2012

If Now Is All We Have

Easily my favourite present this year. Thanks M!

"... the main thing in life isn't so much what happens to us as what we think happens to us." - John Lanchester, Early Retirement

I was lucky enough to be gifted a yellowed copy of Granta's '95 edition, Loved Ones, by a friend who has the unrealistic knack for helping written stories find the people who will read them to the bone. It is a collection of 13 short stories where writers "consider their relationships with those who were, or should have been, close to them." Itchily personal and wincingly frank, the stories are as much about great writing as the ability to extricate difficult and transformative truths from the things that happen to us.

So far, my favourite is John Lanchester's Early Retirement, about his banker father who led a fairly happy life but whose ghost of What Might Have Been never did leave him, until he woke up one day, still new to retirement, and promptly died. For the large part, Lanchester seems to commiserate with his father's evaluation that his life has been one of squandered promise, yet at times, like in the pull-quote above, he quietly alludes to his doubts about whether his father's mute discontent wasn't just a figment of his imagination.

It's an interesting question, isn't it? One I have pondered endlessly myself; torn between wondering if I'm skirting a martyr complex or whether life is really that needlingly shitty sometimes. Whether probable happiness is better than definite safety and whether What Might Have Been, Never Was, because We  Never Let It.

Ps: The new header is courtesy my alien friend G. Thank you, fatso.


  1. aaa you are welcome my fats! :*

  2. A needlingly shitty life, whether real or perceived, is always a good thing if you're a writer. Because then, like every other thing that happens to you, it's just good material.

  3. That explanation starts to ring hollow after a while. But yes.