I am reading Dan O’Brien’s excellent The Contract Surgeon and making the odd note as I go along. Not in the book, I should add (it is not mine) but in a notepad.
On page 23 this rather excellent little cameo is made by a female character – ‘an old woman’ who is tending a fire; here she is in all her sad and memorable glory. [This is, I suspect, her only appearance in the book.]
And here is my note:
*The reader as passenger:
Every time a writer writes he or she must be aware that along with the writer will travel a series of passengers. Like now – I am reading about this old woman and fleshing her out because of my experiences and all the other books and tales and phantasms and films I’ve ever seen. And so she becomes much more than what? 9, 10, 11 lines in a novel.
And now, in this post, I will add:
And I feel ineffably sorry for her, not just because of who she is or was, not simply because of what has happened – what was done – to her, but also because of her context and the history of invasion and wrong that was European settlement or colonisation in many lands, not just the States. So she becomes not merely personal and individual but also representative – in this case – and that gives to her brief appearance a much more significant weight.