Tuesday, December 04, 2007

To Kathryn Light - In Lieu of A Dedication

Kathryn Light was a lawyer, I didn't know her very well. She was surprisingly tall, by which I mean she wouldn't remain in your mind as tall, but her height would surprise you on each new meeting, as if it was a trick of good posture. She had the faintly laconic air of a woman getting by in a man's world. She didn't seem the type to tolerate foolishness or fuzzy thinking. She was smart and strong, at least I thought so, though I didn't always agree with her or understand her position on things. She had grown-up children, boys, I think. She'd decided to shake her life up a bit and to move in a different direction. She started an English degree at Birkbeck, at the same time as me. We shared a personal tutor and were in the same weekly seminar group. Today she was due to collect a marked essay on Blake and Charles Lamb but on Friday she was killed in a car accident. I don't know if anyone thought to look in her pigeonhole, or if the essay was intercepted. I wonder how she did. I hope she did well. It's oddly important to me. Our acquaintanceship was brief, less than a term, but we were engaged in the same endeavour, climbing the same hill.

I got the news the old-fashioned way, it was whispered to me after a lecture. Because I wasn't close to her, but knew her, knew the way her mind worked at least, I was properly shocked, doubly shocked, really; shocked at the news and shocked again by the strength of my reaction to it. People I truly love have died and in the moment of learning the news I seem to remember feeling nothing, but there was no Camusian blankness this evening, just shock, then sadness. We carried on with the seminar. She wasn't there. I remember this, from the first seminar, she said that she couldn't detect the idea of the supernatural in Modernist literature. "Think of The Waste Land!" I shouted. "Crowds of zombies pouring across London Bridge! Dead! All of them!" Now she's dead, of course, and I feel shitty for being over-emphatic, although I doubt it bothered her much. I was toying with the idea of writing my next essay on Prufrock because Kathryn got me thinking how much more I loved it than The Waste Land (as did she), some chance remark that I meant to talk to her about but didn't, a way to engage her in conversation, to prove I wasn't just a shouting boor. Now I must write on Prufrock. A dedication would seem cheesy, over-reaching, academically inappropriate and probably insincere, but the idea won't go away. This will have to do instead.