"...here in the Forgetting Room, the past is present."
Nick Bantock makes books with magic in them. Books that invite the reader to get involved, engaged, intrigued. Books that must be unfolded, explored, and admired as well as read. Last night I was enchanted by my first reading of The Forgetting Room (1997), which was lovely. With the exception of one strange passage, which felt discordant, out of place, it was as smooth and effortless a read as any of the Griffin and Sabine trilogy. The aforementioned "out of place" passage guarantees I'll reread The Forgetting Room, if only to try to make sense of it. But I very much enjoyed my first reading, exploring, and pondering of this book; it kept me guessing and made me smile with pride when I guessed something right. It also made me want to write D, my ex, to thank him for introducing me to Bantock's work with Griffin and Sabine, almost six years ago. Which is funny and oddly reassuring somehow, like in reading The Forgetting Room and thinking that thought I had somehow made a little more peace with myself about the mess that was my relationship with D.
Yesterday morning I dreamed an absolutely awful dream, claustrophobic and oppressive. D and his (and my) ex G had gotten back together, or maybe had never been apart, or at least the latter was certainly what G was pretending. The two of them were traveling through Europe, like Jongleur and I did last summer, and I invited them to visit me at my grandparents' home in Holland, to stay the night. We ended up all sleeping together in the same bed at first, and it was terribly awkward because D and I were very uncomfortable around each other but G was acting like nothing had ever happened, although in the dream I felt sure she was just pretending. And I was wedged between them and I felt --- I really felt, I didn't know I remembered this so vividly after so long --- her luscious, soft body in my arms, but it was wrong, all wrong, even if she didn't seem to know it. (When I woke, I was wedged in between Jongleur and the cat, and almost as warm and claustrophobic as I had been in my dream, but in a furry and reassuring kind of way.) I dreamed that I kept trying to get D and G to keep it down as we moved around --- I hadn't exactly told my grandparents I'd be having guests, and I didn't want to wake them --- and eventually we ended up all three sleeping separately. It was not a happy dream. So to read Nick Bantock's book, which among other things is about lost loves, and find myself thinking fond thoughts of D was a nice hopeful end to that episode.
But there's more magic still. I dreamed that dream about Holland and one other about my grandfather on a night after wearing my Opa's old pajama shirt around all day. So he'd been with me, sort of, in that way, before and after the dream. And, and, and! The Forgetting Room is the story of a bookbinder who inherits his grandfather's home and the discoveries he makes in the artist's studio there. Which is like a dream, it's so magic. Art is life is dreams is art is magic.
But it doesn't end there, either... because The Forgetting Room is also about duende, which is a word for the very heart and spirit and passion of life as art itself, unfolding like a dream-flower or one of Nick Bantock's books. And on that note, I've come full circle, and refer you to riverrun's duende writeup and a few lines from The Forgetting Room, attributed to Lorca but, as the author points out, "any misquotes or mistranslations of Garcia Lorca's writings are attributable to the book's fictional characters" ---
The duende is a power
The duende is of the earth... the dark sounds,
a struggle not a concept.
The duende is not in the throat, it surges up
from the soles of the feet
It is of blood, of ancient culture, of creative action.
It calls one out.
Bantock, Nick. The Forgetting Room: a novel. A Byzantium Book. HarperCollins Publishers. 1997.