‘I work to earth my heart.’
With some regret I finished Denise Riley’s Time Lived, Without Its Flow. It follows the sudden death of her son, an immense reflection on the loosening of time and her ensuing relearning of the world.
I think about the dead, what Maria Gabriela Llansol called the ‘shadows that will remain living among us’. Where do our encounters with these shadows, the non-existent realities (figures) of stories, true or otherwise, take place? What would we be without them?
Riley’s book isn’t a misery memoir, is quite dispassionate in tone, reflecting on how the mourning process is intertwined with the writing of her text. In the three years after her son’s death, Riley found writing anything beyond sporadic notes impossible: ‘You can’t, it seems, take the slightest interest in the activity of writing unless you possess some feeling of futurity.’ Only once she felt time was resumed, well over two and a half years after the death, did narration become possible again. Like Llansol, incorporating her loved one into the narrative is a way to not only accept the reality of their absence but also bring them to life again through the text.