Category Archives: James Joyce

Matches struck unexpectedly in the dark

We cycle up the coast towards Holme, chain our bikes to a tree and walk on a sandy path through the wood. S. stops here and there to open her wildlife book and identify some plant or insect. We chat without paying attention to our surroundings, emerge from the wood and find ourselves before a wide-open view: on one side the sea and sky a vast sheet of whites and blues, on the other scrapes and grassy dunes stretching inland.

It’s moments like that I want to write about. Not the kind of story that creates and fills in its own gaps and runs over silence towards a satisfying ending, but a story of continual returns to the open instant.

Like those moments of undoing and uncovering when you’re stopped on your well-worn path and made to see things with new eyes, as when you work on a problem until it seems insoluble and the answer comes to you all of a sudden: it was there all along, why couldn’t I see it.

Or those thoughts that lie in wait to show you how you’ve been shielding yourself from them, as in a psychoanalytic breakthrough: so that’s why I’ve always acted like that, why didn’t I see it.

Or, in novels, those passages in which moments of clarity cut through the plot and make it almost redundant. I daydream of a book containing only such passages, something like Stephen Hero’s book of epiphanies, or a collection of Woolf’s ‘little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark’.