Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 71, Volume 16 Number 3, January - February 1990.

Back Street Ruth Morse

There is - of course there is - the inevitable treasure of notes. The collection is incomplete, as such historical records will be, if only because in the beginning they weren't historical. Not perceived to be, so not inviting method. There was, even when it became clear that something memorable had begun, there was a time before they were perceived to mean enough more than they said that one didn't scrawl the reply at the bottom, hurriedly, returning the original. So the first is certainly gone forever. Or read them, acted upon them, threw them away. So any number went. At the point at which they didn't simply disappear or accumulate, but were accumulated, discreetly, as we so commonly do, the beginning was over, and long enough over that the characteristic pattern of their arrival, the paper they came on, and, inevitably, their content, began to amuse, fulfilling, in a way, a characteristic pattern of collection. Clichés are tested on the tongue, and found to be true, and wanting, tried, found guilty. As, these things are sent to try us. You never know your luck, waiting for exceptions to prove rules. The ending already implied, though subsequently obscured.

Headed stationery, in several sizes. 'Sorry I couldn't make it on Tuesday/the other night/last week', they read. Written sometimes promptly, as often not. Half another letter, even the back on an envelope, once. Hurried, scrawled, until 'Sorry' became a glyph, self-consciously apologizing with a grin, as stylized as the ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image