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This review is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

PAPER AND STONE, OATMEAL AND CHERRIES Ian Hamilton Finlay, Heraclitean Variations (Wild Hawthorn Press) £3.00;
L'Idylle des Cerises, with Michael Harvey (Wild Hawthorn Press) £30.00;
A Variation on Lines by Pope (Wild Hawthorn Press) £75.00

Those familiar with the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay from its earliest period (and the publication of A Visual Primer by Yves Abrioux makes a substantial amount of it easily available) will be aware of the recurring use of affectionate diminutives. 'Little', 'peedie', 'wee' seem to occur often, for instance in the card which reads 'A wee catch is a big consolation'. It would be wrong to take this as mere Celtic sentimentality, for if your livelihood depends upon the sea, the central motif in Finlay's early work, a wee catch may indeed be a consolation, the difference between eating and going hungry. But more generally, such diminutives convey a care for fragile, unprotected things, a redressing of the balance in their favour. In that case we are in the realm of justice rather than sentimentality. The point is made more emphatically in a postcard Finlay produced in 1976, bearing the words 'Small is quite beautiful'. His words are a slogan every bit as effective as Schumacher's own, but they make propaganda for measurement and judgement against the swamping powers of rhetoric. We do not do justice to the small by inflating it.

The postcard is a versatile, if fleeting, form. It is light, cheap, easily disseminated. But 'Small is quite beautiful' was also produced in the most durable and stationary of materials, in an edition of one, on chiselled stone. The gravity of this work, the care and subtlety of Richard Grasby's carving, have the unmistakable ...


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