“And then one day he had two letters. One was from Roger. Dear Willie, Belated congratulations on the book, which of course I know very well. The reviews I have seen haven’t been at all bad. It’s not an easy book to write about. Each reviewer seems to have touched on a different aspect of the book. And that’s pretty good. Richard should have done more, but that’s his style. Books have their destiny, as the Latin poet says, and I feel that your book will live in ways you cannot at the moment imagine. In his defeated mood, and with his worry about Perdita, Willie saw ambiguities in the letter. He thought it cool and distant, and he didn’t feel he should acknowledge it.
The other letter was from a girl or young woman from an African country. She had a Portuguese-sounding name and she was doing a course of some sort in London. She said that the review in the Daily Mail -a poor one, Willie remembered, but the reviewer had tried to describe the stories- had made her get the book. At school we were told that it was important to read, but it is not easy for people of my background and I suppose yours to find books where we can see ourselves. We read this book and that book and we tell ourselves we like it, but all the books they tell us to read are written for other people and really we are always in somebody else’s house and we have to walk carefully and sometimes we have to stop our eras at the things we hear people say. I feel I had to write to you because in your stories for the first time I find moments that are like moments in my own life, though the background and material are so different. It does my heart a lot of good to think that out there all these years there was someone thinking and feeling like me.”
Half a life