Time Present & Time Past — T.S. Eliot & Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin — Vancouver 1997 — Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

“…her most challenging, complex and compelling novel yet.” — Ian Rankin, Guardian (a blurb on Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life).

It was while reading Ian Rankin’s 2013 John Rebus novel Saints of the Shadow Bible that I noticed that Rankin but in a reference to how the dead died and came back to life and mentioned Atkinson’s novel. I cannot put the exact citation here as I returned Saints of the Shadow Bible to my Vancouver Public Library after paying a hefty $5.00 late charge.

I then wrote this blog called Flickering Forward into thePast.

I must diverge from the above (but will quickly connect the dots) by mentioning that the Web has brought a Colt .45 Peacemaker type of situation in what at one time was that distinguished writers, actors, musicians and film directors at the top were protected from us by impenetrable publicists whose sole reason for existence was to prevent access.

But now many of these gifted Man (men) on the High Castle (and women, too!) have been brought down and have become accessible in the same way the Colt made the supreme gunslinger obsolete.

That web version of the Colt is the vastly more cerebral Twitter (let’s deprecate here Facebook in its almost constant feline banality).

You see I am able to communicate with several writers through Twitter. I can cite @GreatDismal (William Gibson), Manhattan’s Jerome Charyn, London’s Robert Wilson, former Canadian Poet Laureate George Bowering, my Mexican author friends Paco Taibo II and Homero Aridjis plus I have had a couple of replies from that prolific tweeter Margaret Atwood.

I can happily report (and here is where I connect the dots) that Ian Rankin is also on Twitter.

I sent him a link to my time blog and this was his reply:

@alexwh Interesting piece. I often mull over TS Eliot’s take on time in Four Quartets…

As you can imagine I was thrilled and I immediately corrected that vacuum in my life of not having ever read Elliot’s The Four Quartets.

The first one Burnt Norton begins like this:

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.

But to what purpose

Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

I do not know.

There is an incident in Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus novel — Even Dogs in the Wild in which a dead person runs away. I too have read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life which happens to be one of the finest and at the same time most disturbing novels I have read in years. To find out that Rankin and I share a predilection for Atkinson feels good to me.

I have now noted (I had not seen any of the John Rebus TV films until this week) that the producers were smart enough not to begin with Rebus at the beginning but at Black & Blue (two novels after Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke first appears in Black). They time-traveled with a good reason as those who know (and I am one of them) know that Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke turns the tables with John Rebus’s career.

As for me I am happily re-reading (over and over) those Four Quartets.

Link to: Time Present & Time Past — T.S. Eliot & Ian Rankin

Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.