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“Go vrot and bingewatch your favourite Irishman,” my daughter tells me on Zoom after a tough day. Yes, I love Mike of The Chapter’s “let’s gooee”. And that he, for the life of him, can’t say three.
So into the popular YouTuber’s day turdy-tree of yet another missing girl, probably murdered by her partner for some life insurance – and he rolls those blue eyes well – my eye catches the Margaret Atwood lying next to my bed. The Heart Goes Last is untouched; the pages crisp and the smell of the book divine.
And I wonder what happened to “go vrot with a book”? That kind of book you can open at any page and it just speaks to you, like Julian Barnes’ Levels of Life, my take-to-a-desert-island read.
He takes you on a balloon trip, clicks his camera, describes love in words polished to perfection.
SA authors nominated for Booker Prize
You put together two people who have not been put together before; and sometimes the world is changed, sometimes not. They may crash and burn, or burn and crash. But sometimes, something new is made, and then the world is changed.
But it is his grief that moves me beyond tears.
Initially, you continue doing what you used to do with her, out of familiarity, love, the need for a pattern. Soon, you realise the trap you are in: caught between repeating what you did with her, but without her, and so missing her; or doing new things, things you never did with her, and so missing her differently.
You feel sharply the loss of shared vocabulary, of tropes, teases, short cuts, injokes, sillinesses, faux rebukes – all those obscure references rich in memory but valueless to an outsider.
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Ah for the power of words elegantly and eloquently strung together… Words that take your mind à la John Irving to worlds so wonderfully weird you sometimes just have to look up from the pages for a reality check. Words so powerful they leave you meditating about meaning. Words so refreshing you go on a balloon trip you never want to end.
So forget the silly Irishman’s That Chapter. I’m turning over a new chapter: I’m curling up with Atwood. Because every love story is a potential grief story…