As 2016 closed many of us begged for the grim reaper to take a rest. The haul of 2016 does seem to have slowed or maybe it’s just that other news is so alarming that our focus has shifted. Personally loss has continued to characterise our early 2017 and there have been some very low moments.
Standing in my favourite bookshop in Leiden, this book jumped out at me on the day before the funeral of a very much loved one. We’d nipped out of the house to escape the weight of grief and preparation and to divert ourselves, even for just an hour or so. At times it’s as if things wait on shelves, just for you, the perfect match for your mood and circumstance. There was only one copy and it looked short enough to get through even if it turned out not to meet expectations. I shouldn’t have fretted. This book is wonderful.
Porter’s craft as a writer, his mastery of language and structure is outstanding. The text hit me smack bang in the visceral cortex, much as grief does, hence the power of the physical, metaphorical and literary conjuring of Crow. You don’t have to be a Ted Hughes fan to get it. If you are then it will amplify your worship and if not it will urge you on to discovery of some of Hughes’ most powerful work. The brevity of sentenecs and phrasing in the book are rare in their exacting, superbly crafted impact. A seemingly straightforward story of loss and recovery in the life of a parent and two small boys is lifted to a kind of parable.
I read the book in just a couple of hours. It saved me from the darkest depths of a chronic sense of loss in the slow motion sludge ahead of the funeral, by its rendering of the universally recognisable yet intangible thing that is the human experience of loss. We call it grief. It is grievous. And yet we recover.
Crow is the perfect realisation of this grievousness and of the pest that hangs upon us in the darkest hours. A few days after returning home a very large Crow flew down to the curb of our street almost right across my path. This is not unusual they are everywhere, as is loss. It’s not unique. This time, heightened by fatigue, I was aware of the bird moving in parallel to me, just a foot or so away, all the way to my corner shop. At the corner we parted ways. Eventually grief does leave. Memories will bypass chapters of pain. Eventually.