Review of Black Inked Pearl- A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan
Invitation to Feast; A wholly- Holy Original Bouillabaisse Book.
I fell upon this extraordinary work as one might spot an encrusted amethyst on a walk in a dark wood, picked it up, licked, sleeved, polished it; Still its full depths await new light, full warmth. Any opinions offered are bound to be personal, since it calls out only the connections a reader might make. Further ones will emerge, since its richness is the boundless ocean of experience, not merely the author’s but the compendium of the human race, as explored in every myth, and the great echoing symphony of poets, their piping lines now a piccolo, now a Beethovenian thunder cloud.
I can think of no comparable work, but there are echoes of others, ‘By Grand Central Station’ that searing lamentation of loss, came to mind, Brief Encounter was there Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and Gerard Manley Hopkins sat like a goat on a rock and approved. Elizabeth Barrett Browning counted the ways, Eliot’s rose garden was inviting through an open gate; it was all of these, woven anew, since the literature we recognise has been transmuted and flows in our sparked recollections.
For this was a bouillabaisse, gathered ( as the author clarifies) in a succession of sequential dreams, transcribed in the dawn before their light faded. Who would edit the authority of a dream? Or seek to tailor it to the conventions of fictional structure? You take a dream as you must take this book, whole. As it comes. You do not choose your dreams, they choose you.
It masquerades as fiction, for that is the only shelf on which it might be shouldered, yet it is autobiography, and memoir, gathered as fresh salad in leaves of impressions, spiced with asides ( for the author is no great respecter of the straight face) but above everything it is the pure poetry of the Celt. Her Donegal childhood, its rain driven sleet, its barren beach, on which her first unsettled dream was denied, thread through this search for the Seeker, the Divine Lover, who is also the Sought, the Self; the journey we all make.
In that way it is the universal longing, tossed into the steaming cauldron of a single kitchen, the ingredients of one life lived, opened to itself, and playing with the words that might capture it, words toyed with, strung along, amputated, chopped with the sharp knife of humour, or permitted to fall on the floor in an excess of delight in their power.
No Celt can escape W.B. Yeats or Joyce, their inflections and their cornucopia of inventive language is in her blood and bones, as Catholicism is, with its spare and lean injunctions, a world of habited nuns, their admonishments, as well as tempered affections. Dreams are timeless, and this elderly oh still-so-young author gives us the ‘thyme of ever time’ in her passing through the ever-time of Adami and Yifa ( Adam and Eve) in Africa where ‘God was sitting up above, a snooze after nut an’ apple lunch, not payin’ heed’. Delicious disrespect! Yet in it more devotion than can be captured.
One longs to quote, but once begun where would it end? The ‘fragrant soughing song of boughs’ will tempt you into Eden, the ‘Rumi, ruminating Persian poet’, will reassure you’re on the right path, Gustave Dore’s illustrations of Dante with loom into focus, and the ‘journey through the snake oiled business world of persuasion’ might give pause. You will encounter Tygers burning bright, the lonesome wolf, and a gibbon at sunrise in this journey through yourself. The purpose of a review is to persuade a reader to read. Say too much and they might feel they do not need to.
I cannot say too much, nor nearly enough. This is a work that evokes all the glory of what man is capable of, and I feel I know this author intimately, for her celebration of the simplest beauty of the natural world as well as her affections for her dead dog Holly who ‘would never take to a new master, wouldn’t know her wants, her mistress-throw-stick likes, dislikes, that she must never catch the squirrel, didn’t want, don’t try to stop her, hurt back, fondle love her pull her ears and gentle…’ Anyone who has loved a dog will find it anew in her love for Holly.
There is a subterranean philosophy, which like the wise serpent stays hid, only to momentarily appear, so that its lessons might remain when the delight has been digested.
‘Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote’
‘And as the tides follow the moon, as the winter the autumn….as the earth rounds the sun…as man has ever turned to woman and woman to man’ ‘She saw the present in her past, the past in her present’
This work is the past and present of us all, hung in the sun, re-wrapped and new given. A truly phenomenal work that bears the hallmark of the gift through the chosen visionary, like Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet. An unbelievable mastery of language (and new inventions) and of love, free of coercion or sanctimony.
I am me …and that is how I want to be’
Oh what a wonderful gift, this book! Before it becomes embossed with the word ‘classic’ find it, as I did, serendipitously, and rejoice.