Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ladybird, limping, questions

Posted by PicasaThis unusual ladybird, which has a hint of tortoiseshell about it, was on an urgent errand, when we met, across a pub table.

"Are you limping?" asks the young woman who manages the Compasses pub, as we pass in the street.
I don't think that I am, or have any reason to, but to acknowledge her concern, I reply: "No. I must be walking unsteadily because I've had a good lunch."Good for you", she says, touching my elbow.

What Lucy says in her comment on my post yesterday rings a distant bell. I do remember being told as a child not to be inquisitive. "Curiosity killed the cat", they'd say. She's right: a lot of people are afraid to ask questions. It's always struck me that such reticence is a mistake and a relic of a strange, bourgeois inhibition. It is a rule which I have resolutely ignored. Without curiosity, we would have no great inventions and no great novels, to mention just two areas of human achievement. Besides, for the most part, people like being interviewed and welcome the opportunity to talk about themselves, or to express their views.
I suspect that the reluctance of visitors to your house to let their eyes rest for a moment on your bookshelves or even the pictures on your walls, is another aspect of the same basic fear. Though of course it may be that they are just not interested.


tristan said...

or it might be their fear of being unable to tear themselves away until having properly explored each and every shelf ...

Roderick Robinson said...

I suppose that's why journalists enjoy such low social status. But then if one has to weigh up which is the greater solecism: asking a question or allowing a leaden silence to develop, surely the former is the lesser.

Apart from The Malayan Trilogy and The Clockwork Orange I was always slightly dubious about Anthony Burgess's claims as a great writer. These doubts were reinforced when, during a complaining essay (he did a lot of complaining), he referred to a foot injury which compelled him to "claudicate" hither and thither. Why a writer should use such a word rather than "limp" is open to speculation. Still, it's one to keep in one's back pocket though I doubt whether you'd have been justified in using it in the circumstance above.

Unknown said...

Burgess's novel Earthly Powers struck me as not bad at all. Claudicate is a show-off word, no doubt about it. But on that occasion I think I might have used the word if I had known it. "Not limping, my dear, just claudicating". Meanwhile, I shall be on the look out for another opportunity.

Lucas said...

I am reminded of a crackly old tape of Ezra Pound making the long drawled out observation, "Curiosity is essential to great literature!!"