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Highlighting the Mundane
on 6 October 2014
The everyday is remarkable, sacred and profound. John McGregor revives the mundane by infusing it with beauty and awe.
Just making a cup of tea and looking out the window at the street is riven with beauteous sanctity and god walks in the breath of the world.
But I gave up on it by page 91.
It's a bit like repeatedly taking LSD, everything is illuminated the first few times, but then it just looks normal again and the kick is no longer there, the re-ignition of the world fades. Nothing actually happens in this book, there's no narrative or character development; it's just doing those mundane and everyday things, like boiling a kettle and having a shave, again and again. Once you've got the sanctity of this, you've got it. Perhaps the author has no other experience to write about. Reading this book became like reading a great short poem. But when it's exactly the same poem about a kettle on each page... well, I began to feel a little short changed, no matter how hallowed the kettle. This is just the same trick repeated over and over. But that's one page, not 270.
I skipped ahead to see if anything further happened, narrative, character or content wise, but I couldn't find any page on which there was much different. Supposedly, from the beginning, something is going to happen, maybe death, I don't know - and this anticipation is supposed to keep us awake in the meantime - but this is a deliberate, creative writing trick which, in its cheapness, made me feel a little patronised and wonder why, in waiting, I was just reading the same old thing again and again. Life being short, I like to leave Bradford and get something more varied for my sacred illuminations. Because if PG Tips taste fantastic, riding a mountain railway and talking to the people on a local train in Sri Lanka and being invited to tea, tastes even more ecstatic, once the knowledge of deep beauty is obtained. No need to bang on about it, like we didn't notice. Set your store again, but next time presume we know - and have an adventure, with elsewhere and events and people who see each other and have a life.
I may lift the book of the shelf and flick through it again, like re-consulting a good poem, but I'm not actually gonna sit down and read this book. If you don't know what a kettle is and appreciate it, then this book may be helpful to you but, elsewise, life's too short for the mundane.