Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald

A couple of days ago I read an article about one of my favourite writers, Penelope Fitzgerald: brilliant, and an inspiration because she didn’t publish her first book until she was sixty. (Writing Magazine, July 2018.)  Some of her novels are set in the past, but, Tony Rossiter writes, “as Julian Barnes has pointed out, they do not really feel like traditional historical novels…..the reader almost feels as if he is reading them in the time they are set. That’s an unusual experience and one that’s difficult to explain.”

Difficult indeed, though Rossiter comes close here: “She was somehow able to combine a microscopic focus on specific detail with a panoramic perspective which leaves the reader to make connections and draw conclusions.” But that analysis is necessarily abstract; you can only appreciate her by seeing how the details work as you read, so you feel the lived life.

I found myself drawn into Gate of Angels again, her novel set in the Cambridge of 1912. Here’s an example of her delicate skill, though it may not be the same teased out of its context within the deceptively tight-knit work: “In the field next to the station fence an old horse, once grey, now white, moved a few sedate steps away. This was a token retreat only, it was many years since the train’s approach had given warning that it might be required to pull the station fly. The fly mouldered away now, its shafts pointing upwards, in the corner shed. On the horse’s hollow back, as it came to a standstill, the elder flowers fell gently.”

There’s so much here: the tiny elder flower florets falling from their large umbel onto the horse’s back, white on white; the moment of stasis; horses yielding to the motor car; time moving and time standing still…..

Blog Refreshed: SCRIPS

Today, a new slant. I want to write shorter (and, I hope, more frequent!) posts. Each piece will spring from a line or two in something I’ve been reading that day.  They will be snippets.

I want to share the excitement or wonder provoked by good writing. And I want to remember. Even a powerful response evaporates when the next good thing comes along.  I hope to capture them before they dart away, as my children used to snatch fireflies out of the air, closing a gentle hand around the glow, holding it for just a moment….                                      

I’m now calling my blog: SCRIPS.


…a small piece or scrap (of paper, usually with writing upon it); …a small scrap of writing

That’s from the Oxford English Dictionary. “Scrip” meaning small piece of paper apparently comes from “scrap” and “scrape." The change from “a” to “i” may have been “expressive of smallness.” “Scrips” therefore fits my blog as I will try (a challenge for me!) to write short bits. The "i" was probably also due to influence from the word "script,“ so "Scrips” resonates nicely with my novel Inscription and with some of my recurring themes.

Other OED definitions include:

A small bag, wallet, or satchel, esp. one carried by a pilgrim, shepherd, or a beggar.                                                                                        Fractional paper currency….A receipt for a portion of a loan….a prescription.

Each of my scrips will be a container, like “a small bag or wallet,” for the quotation that has been its spring-board. But whether they will have value, like currency vouchers, or healing potential, like prescriptions, remains to be seen!

The first Scrip comes from something I read in Writing Magazine about the brilliant novelist and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald.