The literary cliché in our society is that we all have a book inside of us. The writer Will Self often jokes that when he is first introduced to people as an author they always view him with a side-eye of wary suspicion, as if he has already stolen their ideas. Lest we forget the pandemic hiatus has allowed for ample opportunity for us all to explore the opportunity to write…ahem, any takers?
Cassandra Campbell-Kemp has taken the generous opportunity afforded by her self-imposed isolation to write a forensic literary response to her and our predicament. We can’t accuse Cassandra of not using her enforced solitary confinement positively in her mid-17th century cottage in “Merrie England”. The truths, reality and self-reflection will all be familiar. However, the highly personal approach of the writer will engage I assure you.
You are invited to marvel at the Campbell-Kemp’s ingenuity and meticulous preparation for the lock-down but the process is explored with the tongue placed firmly in her cheek. The writer does not take herself seriously and even refers to her physical impairments with this caustic observation: “I wheeze and cough, like an old water buffalo at the best of times.” This comment offered up by way of a sober homily.
CCK is not afraidto explainher thoughts and reflections in detail, however, her joy of life and all its idiosyncrasies married with her love of language will take you on ride which alerts you to the sense of the ridiculous as she sees it. The personal observations give way to the political climate of Great Britain and the state of the nation as a whole. The irony of the Thursday night hand-clapping giving way to contrived cynicism by our government does not go unnoticed. Even if she acknowledges it feels as if we are…“going to hell in a hand-cart.”
You have to hand it to CCK as she has compressed a great deal into her life – allowing for a huge canvas to draw on! – she readily writes about these experiences as her writerly imagination takes her away from the now of the pandemic. All of the visited countries, people and languages are returned to, to give this biographical trope a rich tapestry of colour and texture.
“It is what it is”…as the author is fond of stating, reflects the book for me. CCK clearly had a book inside her and was determined to share the fact. She may have been physically alone with only a cat for company, however, the rotating orbit of neighbours, friends and family are a part of the story, in person and via zoom & messenger. However, if you want to know if she reported her neighbour to the police for violating the lockdown or why the book is so titled you will need to order a copy yourself…now that Cassandra Campbell-Kemp has freed up a little time for the delivery drivers who really did deliver during the height of the pandemic!
CCK’s story began with a profound nightmare, although, I can’t help but feel this contemporary nightmare is only just gaining momentum.
By: Sir Gonzo