Bryson, B., 1996. Notes From a Small Island. 2nd ed. London, Great Britain: Black Swan.
- Seems to be a slow travel through disjointed thoughts. more of a meanderance. Browne seeing the quincunx everywhere. the pattern of dice on the five side, something in each corner and another in the middle. The study of burial, or cremation as the for-runner of burial, the addition of grave goods to ease the dead into the afterlife, Seabald is either naturally morbid or while in his hospital bed, thinks he will die?
2. Starts with a train journey with no-one interacting, then gets dropped off at a station that now is of no consequence, where once surrounded by windmills, it meant the arrival of everything to the area.
Talks of Somerleyton with a grand history then drops in the emptiness and disasters that befell it from this great point in its history. He is bouncing through time with ease.
3. Leaves Lowestoft talks of the self induced loneliness of the solitary fishermen on the seashore as he walks on, discusses the herring fishing history and its ebb and flow There is still an all prevailing sense of decay about this work, whether this is mirroring his imminent physical condition isn’t clear yet, brings to mind a Bill Bryson book I read a long time ago, Notes From a Small Island, where while describing Aberdeen and its rich history, he notes “It is, I’ve no doubt, a nice place to live. It’s just that it was so much like everywhere else.” This book has this similar all pervading tiredness of seeing the decay and knowing what a history it stands on seeping out of the pages.
4. Starts in Southwold looking out to sea and imagining an unimaginable battle no-one ever painted from life. Goes to the Sailors reading room and looks up a photo of Ferdinands blood stained coat and starts to remember a trip to Amsterdam the year earlier. Returns to the history in the reading room to discuss the atrocious deaths in WWII Croatia.
5. I’ll give this to him, Seabald defines the losing side of a war in a way most winning parties don’t. Roger Casemont captures his imagination as a program he falls asleep to and then finds out more, he is lyrical in his presentation of the past, and as I wrote depicts the underdogs side well for someone on the winning/white patriarchal side.
6. Striking chapter about a bridge he walks over, built for a small gauge train, which was purchased from Chinese dynasty. He doesn’t know exactly who from, but supposes a specific person and recites their history and demise. A rich modern (in comparison) history filled with excess.
7. Brief interlude visiting a friend on route.
8. Falls into conversation with De Jong finds out about the Tate’s financial origins (Tate and Lyle?) History of Fitzgerald’s and primarily Edward who had the gilded life of someone born into money, coursed because his upbringing was so controlled it fixed his solitary path through the rest of his life. Eccentric in the way only those with money can be. Also a walk around an ex military research facility on the east coast, now empty and barren.
9. A reminiscence of a family he stayed with in Ireland. The great house once a thing of proud beauty decaying due to the troubles making it an un-sellable millstone for the owners. A family who inherited it with no way to make a profit enough to deal with the upkeep and have an almost ethereal quality about their link to the house.
This chapter finishes with the final destruction of the wind in 1987, which I remember well. This ends the walk.
10. is about the silk industry, its move from China through Greece, on to the main land up through western Europe into England, explains why it failed but produced skilled workmen who proffered first.
Ends with the death of Clara’s father as the great loss of the book? It is difficult to tell if this is the man that walked the east coast or its the author. The sense of loss is right through the book, its decay upon greatness followed by decay, it appears to be charting the demise of someone held in high esteem at the very least and is an indirect obituary of this greatness brought down.
Also I’m having difficulty working out the view of decay in terms described from Aesthetics (Tailaiferro) If romantic is a state of letting it fall into disrepair, this book allows for that, however, in classical terms it shows the route of the decline every step, however it feels so poetic it’s difficult to take the view away from the sense of lost love and romance.
However, I’m not sure how much of any of it is true? is the book a fiction?
I will read more of Seabald’s work though, it is mesmerising.