Flight of Fancy

After waking from a startling dream and failing to get back to sleep, I turned on the light and picked up my book, Public Library and other stories by Ali Smith.


The story ‘The ex-wife’ turned out to be about Katherine Mansfield.  I learnt several new, captivating – unverified – things about her.  She had a cat called Charlie Chaplin who had a kitten called Wing.  Here the flight references begin.

Apparently, Mansfield could have been born in a hot-air balloon flying over Wellington. A “medical incident” of one of the female passengers, one of whom was Mansfield’s pregnant mother, reportedly delayed the flight on 15 October 1888.

Then, in the 1920s, when the British film industry made hundreds of films, Mansfield may have earned money as an extra.  Later the films “were melted down and used to make the resin that was painted on the wings of aeroplanes to make them weather resistant”.

Revelations more startling than my dream.

Virginia Woolf, according to the narrator, considered Mansfield “flighty”.

And there are always connections: a link to my thoughts about Aminatta Forna’s book Happiness.  Katherine Mansfield wrote:

Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.  So suffering must become love.  This is the mystery.  This is what I must do.

Part of this (up to ‘mystery’) is quoted in Smith’s story.  And of the writer’s role, the narrator quotes her again:

What the writer does is not so much to solve the question, but to put the question.  There must be the question put.  That seems to me a very nice dividing line between the true and the false writer.


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