Around a century ago, someone was sheltering from the Spanish flu pandemic in the 100+ year old house I live in. Roughly 25,000 in Ireland, many of them young people, died of that flu.
After finishing Richard Powers’s The Overstory last weekend, I was bemused to read Roxane Gay’s Goodreads criticism of its “florid descriptions of trees”, which I thought was harsh. I found them beautiful. But I can read description for pages and pages. Show me all the parts of the tree: its roots and crown, its rings and scars, how it communicates with other trees, how its history and human history are intertwined. Why should plot have more importance than description? Description is necessary to prose, just as much as action and character, in which all feeling—the crux of most writing—ensues.
In my dream I walk into a self-service cafe. A woman wheels a baby in a stroller into the premises and asks for milk, but it is out-of-date, so I walk across the city, looking for milk. It is warm and sunny and leafy in that city, and I tempted to dawdle, but I need milk. I enter a building in which each story is accessed by climbing stones. As I start to climb, the stones I palm pop out of the wall just as I loosen my grip; the only way out of my predicament is to keep climbing.