These are the kind of things that George Mackay Brown makes me think of (you see there is a sort of point to all that rambling). He’s also a writer I find myself turning to over winter and spring – I see I was reading him this time last year as well. ‘Hawkfall’ was a happy find (at the Astley Book Farm) a pristine copy of a book I’ve wanted for a while in a half hearted sort of way. I thought it was a novel for some reason and I’ve struggled with Mackay Brown’s novels – but happily it’s another collection of short stories where I feel he’s hard to beat.
Fair enough I get a sense of déjà vu reading these stories now because there is a similarity between them; I’ve got well over half a dozen collections and found myself in very familiar territory, that said I think this is one of the best sets I’ve read, I didn’t want to finish it. I also found myself actually making notes whilst reading which is something I rarely do – of course I’ve lost them already, but all the same... What I haven’t lost is a sense of connection with the season changing. A reminder that the sky is sometimes blue, and will sometime be blue again, after spending most the daylight hours of the last 5 months in a windowless corner surrounded by wine bottles it’s something that’s nice to know.
It’s all summed up in ‘The Tarn and The Rosary’ (which has to be Mackay Brown’s own biography) Colm who has become a writer is living in Edinburgh trying to finish a second book. It’s hot and somehow unsatisfactory he wants to go back north, and at the same time doesn’t, writing to a friend
“I am not coming north this year. There are its true so many things I want to see – Tumilshun and the hills, the churchyard, the school, the piers where I fished and the ditches where I burned my fingers. But there are other places that give me a pain at the heart when I think of them – the doorless houses in the village, the Godspeed rotting on the beach, the black forge...”
But self imposed exile gives way to a new realization by the end of the story:
“During the last Gospel it came to him that in fact it would be the easiest thing in the world for him to go home. There was nothing to keep him here. There were still meaningful patterns to be discerned in the decays of time. The hills of Norday were astir all summer, still, with love, birth, death, resurrection.”
And that’s exactly why I read George Mackay Brown.