It was the best of times, it was the worst of times as I sat down opposite my blank screen to find today’s word – the first in five months. A random search of Lit Hub magazine rendered this fun quiz in which to identify the opening lines of 100 famous novels. And there lay opposite. The word found its way into Late Middle English via Old French from the Latin word oppositus or ‘set against’. Not written but implied in all its contrariness in the opening line of Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities.
The Opposites of Two Worlds
The French Revolution was too dark for the light mood in which I started writing again. But when the same quote drifted down my inbox a day or so later, my fate was sealed.
Said quote had already struck a chord the first time. I mean, let alone the pandemic’s ups and downs; we are indeed in an age of opposites. Of extremes. Of wisdom and foolishness, an epoch of belief and incredulity, a season of Light and Darkness (no matter whether you want to spell that in upper or lower case). But a philosophical discussion about this line’s significance for us in 2021 may paint us into a corner of despair while I’d rather take an opposite view – towards the freedom of hope.
Conor Kostick & Declan Burke
I came across one such ray of hope especially relevant for writers, in a recent Zoom conversation, where Conor Kostick and Declan Burke talked about their different experiences of writing during the pandemic.
The launch of Conor’s new book, The Retreat, crashed as all the Irish bookshops and publishers locked down hard in April last year and all the orders of his book were cancelled. His family was also one of the first hit by the virus itself. But despite everything, he found a new outlet for his writing – a kind of Dickens-on-Digital. He is writing a new novel for readers on the Royal Road at two episodes per week, and he realised that Dickens’s books were so good because each episode had to be a self‑contained story with a drum‑roll delivery.
I owe special thanks for this issue
* to my editor, Audrey Mac Cready
* to photographer Leo Boudreeau, for the use of his photograph of the Stoppage at the Fountain.
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