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The Ragged Weave Of Yesterday Paperback – 21 Feb 2017
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About the Author
ANDY CHRISTOPHER MILLER has worked as a professor of educational psychology for two British universities and published ten books in his field including Child and Adolescent Therapy (1992) and Teachers, Parents and Classroom Behaviour: A Psychosocial Approach (2003). He has also published book chapters, magazine and journal articles on topics as diverse as relationships, travel and mountaineering. A selection of these pieces, including his prize-winning poem for the 2011 Yeovil Literary Prize, was published as While Giants Sleep (2015). Andy’s memoir of family, truth and secrets and what it was like to grow up in seaside Britain in the years following the Second World War has also been published as The Naples of England (2015)
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Clear sighted, entertaining and, at times, powerfully moving this excellent book will resonate with anyone who has kept a diary – and with anyone who once in while looks over their shoulder and wonders, ‘how did I get here?’
Five years ago, driven by the serious illness of an old friend, he started rereading them, some for the first time in decades. He was left with a strange feeling, perhaps reminiscent of Sartre’s existential nausea, of utter oppression, driven in part by the weight of detail contained in a life.
He found himself facing a difficult decision. Whether to just get rid of the lot, leave them be, or do something with them. He decided to reread and edit them. What has evolved out of this project is a highly readable book, a unique blend of anecdote, reflective memoir and social history.
Hitchhiking, political action, Bob Dylan, Sgt. Pepper’s, abseiling down college hall walls, protesting the Vietnam war, a talk with Harold Wilson, price freezing, experimental forms of teacher training (filmed by BBC): this is a smorgasbord of interesting historical titbits, humorous anecdotes and colourful scenes.
It is perhaps, though, the climbing exploits where this project reaches its peak. Delving into the diaries the author returns with wonderfully lyrical descriptions of the mountains and craggy rocks where “curtains of rain” wash grit-stone valleys, and tiny slivers of rock and wet ropes are the line between life and falling.
As well as being an entertaining read, this book is also a fascinating journey into the nature of memory and the process of editing. Why, Miller muses, were some events recorded in minute detail, and yet others, often momentous moments in the country’s post-war history, barely mentioned? How can such a vast amount of material be organised into something readable? Why indeed, did he do it at all?
His psychology background comes to the fore as he explores the nature of memory and our all-important ability to forget – we are, he notes, “a narrative-driven species”. Eruditely calling on luminaries who have tackled these issues such as J M Coetzee, Knausgaard and Tony Benn he explores how unreliable his memory of events really is.
This is a book for anyone who keeps a diary, for writers who want to understand more about the nature of memory and life narrative, and for any reader who wants a flavour of what it was like to come of age in the late sixties.
Early on in the process, Miller muses as to whether it would be easier just to “put them to the fire”. We are very lucky that, in the end, he did not.