Book//mark – A Month in the Country | J.L. Carr, 1980

J.L. Carr, 1912-1994                                                               A Month in the Country, 1980

“Novel-writing can be a cold-blooded business. One uses whatever happens to be lying around in memory and employs it to suit one’s end…Then, again, during the months whilst one is writing about the past, a story is colored by what presently is happening to its writer. So, imperceptibly, the tone of voice changes, original intentions slip away. And I found myself looking through another window at a darker landscape inhabited by neither the present nor the past. ”

“Summertime! And summertime in my early twenties!  And in love.  No better than that–secretly in love, coddling it up in myself. It’s an odd feeling, coming rarely more than once in most of our lifetimes.  In books as often as not, they represent it as a sort of anguish but it wasn’t so for me.  Later perhaps, but not then.”

“By nature we are creatures of hope, always ready to be deceived again, caught by the marvel that might be wrapped in the grubbiest brown paper parcel.”

“And, at such a time, for a few of us there will always be a tugging at the heart—knowing a precious moment had gone and we not there. We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours for ever – the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, the touch of a hand, a loved face. They’ve gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass.

All this happened so long ago. And I never returned, never wrote, never met anyone who might have given me news of Oxgodby. So, in memory, it stays as I left it, a sealed room furnished by the past, airless, still, ink long dry on a put-down pen.

But this was something I knew nothing of as I closed the gate and set off across the meadow.”

“But one thing is sure -I had a feeling of immense content and, if I thought at all, it was that I’d like this to go on, no-one going, no-one coming, autumn and winter always loitering around the corner, summer’s ripeness lasting for ever, nothing disturbing the even tenor of my way (as I think someone may have said before me).”

“That was the missed moment. I should have put out a hand and taken her arm and said, “Here I am. Ask me. Now. The real question! Tell me. While I’m here. Ask me before it’s too late.”

“I’m an apple expert. Apples are the only exam I could ever hope to pass.”

“Ah, those days…for many years afterwards their happiness haunted me. Sometimes, listening to music, I drift back and nothing has changed. The long end of summer. Day after day of warm weather, voices calling as night came on and lighted windows pricked the darkness and, at day-break, the murmur of corn and the warm smell of fields ripe for harvest. And being young. If I’d stayed there, would I always have been happy? No, I suppose not. People move away, grow older, die, and the bright belief that there will be another marvelous thing around each corner fades. It is now or never; we must snatch at happiness as it flies.”

“The first breath of autumn was in the air, a prodigal feeling, a feeling of wanting, taking, and keeping before it is too late.”

J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country, 1980

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