Saturday 11 November 2017

Extravagant Stranger by Daniel Roy Connelly  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
There must be a moment when the pull of the end of a life becomes stronger than the push of its beginning, but this moment inevitably passes unrecognised, other than that it becomes at this point (and we won’t be looking for this) suddenly less implausible to call writing about your life ‘Memoir’. Daniel Roy Connelly has lived what  some might think of as an interesting life (he has been a diplomat in various countries and a theatre director and scholar) but there is no particular reason for us to be interested in any of that, and every reason to think that Connelly is not particularly interested in any of that either. Instead, Extravagant Strangeris a set of residua, granules of experience that have become grit in his memory, arranged from a sperm’s-eye view of his conception (why he identifies with only half his chromosomal constitution at this point is probably insignificant in light of his overall project of netting the partial and fractured nature of both experience and memory (although we understand the difference between experience and memory we cannot experience this difference)), through childhood and parenthood, until beyond his (projected) death. This is the opposite of a curriculum vitae or Mastermind research; the short impressionistic pieces that comprise the book are refreshingly free from fact, fact forming perhaps a substructure of the memoir upon which the pieces spring forth like small and sudden thorny plants. Each piece is stamped with the voice of its author, entirely personal but entirely outward-looking, full of the kinds of idiosyncratic observation, self-arraignment and wordplay that act as burrs that make moments cling to consciousness and be carried forward, through the evident sadness, joy and irritation that have pulled increasingly strongly at the biographical trajectory of the Connelly’s life (this may be a memoir but it is in no way an autobiography). Does memoir steady us on the corners of the luge, or hold us back a little (or at least give the momentary impression of being held back a little), or does it disemburden us, cast us forward and speed our descent? We are either aware or unaware, and, if the former, all we have is detail, the more particular and the more idiosyncratic the better.

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