Common Things That Are Suddenly Special : A Memoir by Brenda Liddy. Inspired by SEI Shonagon's Pillow Book

Common Things That Are Suddenly Special : A Memoir by Brenda Liddy. Inspired by SEI Shonagon's Pillow Book


Common Things That are Suddenly Special is an inspirational memoir which will motivate readers to see the ordinary things and events in their lives as special and extraordinary. It is what Thomas Larson defines as sudden memoir, which helps the writer to cope, get through, get past. Freud claimed that our memories are stored in our brains as static entities, but recent neurological discoveries show that our memories are in a state of flux and are continually being updated or refashioned. In this inspirational memoir, Brenda Liddy, takes the reader on a journey from the interfaces of north Belfast to the cherry blossoms of Kyoto. The memoir was inspired by Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book. She was a Japanese author who served as a court lady to the Empress Teishi in the mid-Heian period around the year 1,000 during which time she composed her pillow book which was in effect a collection of observations, impressions, opinions on everyday life in the court, including the highs and lows of aristocratic life. You might say Sei with her witty and sometimes pithy, sometimes unflattering remarks was a kind of early modern tweeter! The author uses Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book as a framework to reflect on her own life and some of the events that have shaped it. It starts with a reflection on the four seasons. Basho's spring haiku where he celebrates the cherry blossoms is reflected on and we learn that the poet felt as if he was in a Noh play. Liddy adheres to the 'sudden memory' style throughout the book as one moment you are in the Empress Teishi's Japanese court where the full-moon gruel festival is in full swing, and women are chasing each other with gruel sticks and the next moment you are reading about a St. Patrick's Day celebration in Belfast where young men are wearing green glitter newsboy hats and are sporting red curly beards, and women are wearing green tinsel wigs, long 80s style neon fishnet gloves and trailing green and white turkey feather boas round their necks. Or one moment Sei Shonagon recalls going to the palace to see a procession of blue horses and the next moment, Liddy recalls a TV programme where the horses were parading around before the start of the Qatar Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe. The reader will be taken a walk down memory lane, which could sometimes be the Waterworks in north Belfast where the mute swans glide along elegantly to the snow capped Slemish mountain where St. Patrick herded sheep. Sei conjures up an enchanting landscape of rippling rivers and mountain peaks with Shinto shrines, and you will find her insights illuminating. But you will also be fascinated by Liddy's viewpoints on Irish mountains and their incredible myths and legends from the Cave Hill in north Belfast in County Antrim to the Mourne Mountains which sweep down to the sea, in County Down. You could be savouring Sei's Japanese aesthetic in one entry when she describes a misadventure involving palm-leaf carriages and in the next breath you could be reading about the gates in the interface peace walls in north and west Belfast or finding out about The Gateless Gate, a Buddhist text. Or do not be surprised if you are admiring a photograph of a bridge at Toome and then further on in the memoir, you are dancing on the bridge of Avignon. You could be reading about W.B. Yeats' nine bean-rows or Muslihuddin Sadi's hyacinth or awakened by a priory peacock or amused by an observation about Not the Nine O'Clock News. The memoir, like Shakespeare's Cleopatra is full of infinite variety and moves from an early modern Japanese world of sliding screens and reed blinds where women lived in the shadows, to the hustle and bustle of a 21st century post-conflict Belfast where women are equal partners in public life and have for the most part have obtained their independence. Like her role model, Sei Shonagon, Liddy's lists are not mere inventory, but a powerful memoir, peppered with insightful comments and witty observations.

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Dr Brenda Josephine Liddy
Paperback | 178 pages
152 x 229 x 10mm | 245g
Publication date
21 Feb 2014
Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Bestsellers rank