I read Tony Judt’s ‘The Memory Chalet’ this month, a collection of essays dictated as he lay dying and utterly immobilised. This is reason enough to marvel but I found less sentimental reasons for appreciating the book. His precision of expression and adroit balancing of personal, impressionistic recollection and socio-political pronouncement are a testament to the craft of writing. Each word feels carefully weighed so that nothing might be said to be superfluous (to me, perhaps the highest praise).
Such writing is the result of endeavour, and of the hard slog of detached appraisal, editing, and excision. The Memory Chalet affected me deeply. It made me reflect on the laziness of my writing, but it also inflamed that itch for expression. Over the years, many half-baked notions of what form that expression might take have flitted through my mind. Slowly, those thoughts have coalesced around the idea of poetic recollection and reflection – short pieces that might one day be stitched together to form a cohesive whole. Imagine if W.G Sebald had kept a blog and perhaps that comes close.
The Memory Chalet made me want to write and write properly – with care and undistracted attention – so that I might give form to the daily melange of impressions and experiences. So that I might know myself a little better. And so that I might become a better writer.