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This article is taken from PN Review 258, Volume 47 Number 4, March - April 2021.

Play It All the Way Through, First – but Slowly Kirsty Gunn
At five years old I was sent to piano lessons at seven thirty on a Friday morning with a teacher who wore pretty, glittery nail polish but was otherwise terrifying. Seven thirty on a dark winter’s morning in Wellington is not what anyone imagines when they think about New Zealand, and those mornings were dark and they were wintry and the piano teacher was not at all happy to be up in them, teaching scales and arpeggios to a child who could not seem to get to the end of a run of notes without making a mistake, or having to pause, or start again. ‘No! No! No!’ she would cry out, rapping me over the knuckles with a heavy wooden ruler she kept close by for such occasion – the glittery polish on the hand that did the rapping not so pretty then. ‘For goodness’ sake, can’t you reach the end of at least something without stopping?’

That phrase has been with me over these past few months as I’ve been going without pause at the works of Henry James. For in the past, reading James, how I did stop. There would be this sentence with its wildly, awkwardly Jamesian punctuation here, another paragraph, stiff with his subordinate clauses, there. Where’s the subject? I would fret. To what object does that adjective pertain? There were the endless reams of double negatives to be played over in the mind and sorted, words to be held up at and gone over for additional nuance – so not simple opinions, but ...


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