‘Either you buy into the whole ‘affinity with the cosmos’ angle or you don’t’ – Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

pondBennett herself said in an interview with The Irish Times that she wrote Pond not to ‘make sense of things – the opposite in fact, to keep rationality and purpose at bay’. This gives her work a love/hate factor. There are those who will love it for the way it streams off on its own tangent, taking objects and situations to pieces, wryly examining them through the warped lens of solitary living and then discarding them as though they were not important in the first place – but there may also be others who will hate it for that. People, and readers in particular, have a nasty habit of seeking purpose and trying to make sense of things. When you engage in such pursuits by wading into Bennett’s Pond, you’re likely to fall flat on your face and drown in three inches of water.

Traditionally, literature likes to compensate for the shortfalls of real life with a more subliminal experience. Fiction aims for something like reality but better; weary of platitudes it reaches for the moon. Carl Jung saw writing as a way of finding meaning, a search for unity between what we live on the outside, and what we are on the inside. Psychologically then, the author’s act of sublimation implies the transformation of often negative unconscious experience into positive form. In other words, a writer will delve into the darkness of his/her mind, and try to make sense of it through the work that they produce. Does Bennett do this in spite of what she says? And what does it mean to ‘not make sense of things’ anyway?

The author explains. ‘I was writing not to connect with other people, but to experience and augment my affinity with the universe.’ And indeed it is this self-confessed need to turn away from the demands of people that characterises the short stories in Pond. The narrator, who remains the same through all the stories of this collection, frequently and often comically, reflects on the distance that she creates between herself and other people, and her intimacy with inanimate objects strengthens this. This reader gets the impression that Bennett has given herself a serious bit of therapy through this collection of short stories, but what about the effect on the reader?

The style of the writing is brilliant even if it doesn’t always take you where you want to go. At times in fact it takes you nowhere in particular, and often uses a large number of words to get you there, but the quality of the writing is stunning and the insights that it gives you are intense.

Any Cop?: Either you buy into the whole ‘affinity with the cosmos’ angle or you don’t, but as Bennett’s narrator says on the subject, ‘it is impossible for anyone to make anything without mirroring the nascent twist of cosmic upheaval’.  She follows this with,

‘the shapes of insurrection are only somewhere in my mind: a place that has become obscured in much the same way that the mounting formation of dissenting earth chuck is routinely concealed by the modifying application of concrete filler and whitewash’.

Analyse that, will you?

Lucille Turner


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