We read an extract from Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter in class. The words leapt from the page and slapped my face. ‘Read me, read me! You know this!’ they cried.
I bought the book.
I started reading.
I cried, several times. I laughed, so loud on the train that people were staring at me. I did their thinking for them. ‘Look at that sick weirdo, reading a book about grief and laughing. Tut, tut, tsk tsk.’ I smiled and kept on reading, lost in the words and the feelings once more.
I finished the book today.
I am afraid to write about it. I am not ready. I look at Facebook. I make a cup of hot, sweet tea – writer’s fuel, that is. I look at Facebook again, mindlessly scrolling up and down, minutes dissolving into the ether of useless information.
I finished the book today. My blog post is due tomorrow. I must begin writing. Just write.
Music will help. I make a playlist. I take a photograph of the book for the blog. Break up the text with pictures. I capture another image, of the book I have finished on top of the other books I have yet to finish, but would find easier to write about.
It is 10.47 am and I haven’t eaten a thing. I grudgingly make brunch, accompanied by yet another cup of tea. I look at the writing table I have set up. Maybe I should hand write it first I muse, and rummage around for my notebook and pen. Is everyone’s writing process like this? Maybe there’s an image for that? I google ‘the writing process’.
Twitter distracts me further. I throw my phone down on the table in frustration and consider taking a hammer to it. Instead, I pick up my pen and finally begin to write.
So, here we are. I finished the book today.
Max Porter artfully uses dark humour in his description of looking out from a maelstrom of grief, setting the scene with a series of detached observations. I have been a central character in that parade, surrounded by family, close friends, part-time friends, strangers, wannabe friends, and drama-by-proxy addicts, tripping over themselves to dole out advice or share personal experiences that have, frankly, fuck-all to do with anything you are feeling.
Porter shares the circus of it all with stark honesty, harnessing the spaced out feelings of the first few days perfectly. Grieving feels like being ripped out of your own life and plonked on an empty stage in an empty theatre, to star in an absurd play. The audience float around outside the theatre, whilst the you that everyone sees smiles weakly, nods, croaks thanks. The unseen, simultaneous roles of you respond quite differently, often with a great deal of swearing and, an occasional punch in the face.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers is a fractured account of shared experiences written from multiple perspectives in a myriad of ways. The writing style achieves the feeling of making complete sense, whilst making no sense at all. Crow, our antagonist and hero rolled into one is invited in, yet invades the remains of this family. Throughout the narrative, Crow hops and darts around the boys and the father, tormenting and saving, hurting and healing. He pecks at the darkest parts of humanity and is the father, the boys, grief, anger, hope, the past, the future – a black mirror in which to view ourselves as we truly are. I found this book easy to read, drinking in all its darkness and light. Heartfelt honesty and clever imagery paints an emotive masterpiece that is accessible to all, whether you have been cast in the death show or not. You may finish this book, but it will not be finished with you.
Books end. Grief does not. I finished my blog post.