More recently, I had the Delight to read again J B Priestley’s Selection of Essays and marvel over the delicacies of what is genuinely a mastery of simple English prose. As much a philosophical window into his appreciation of life’s simplest pleasures, the writings are nothing short of brilliant through the undertone of urgency that defined the times. Rarely you find a writer who so vividly personalises his art that sixty-four plus years to date a reader is still ably transported through the ages.
Taking a leaf out of linguistic cues even back in the day, you’ll notice the semiotic use of I’s and dashes (-) that cater to a reading strategy that leads one chapter onto following chapters in non-sequential order that much of the older print classics such as The Woman in White make use of, which make for a very interesting read. For anyone who cares to read in between the lines, the writings intertwine as if a conversation of letters and delivers a very much personalised finesse. A real piece of work silent with propaganda to epoch a life between wars that could give old news archives a run for its money.
Though largely lost in translation without its original print form, here is one of the recurring excerpts that explicitly voices his near-nonsensical appreciation of life but his quiet contempt for war laced with religious reference, which is largely likened to in the following chapters throughout his writings.
BLOSSOM-apple, pear, cherry, plum,
almond, blossom-in the sun. Up in the
Dales when I was a child. In Picardy among
the ruin of war. Afterwards at Cambridge and
among the Chilterns, where I would read my
publishers’ manuscripts and review copies in their
delicate shade. At the bottom of the canyons, at
Bright Angel and Oak Creek, in Arizona. Here
in our garden in the Isle of Wight. So many
places, so much time; and yet after fifty years this
delight in the foaming branches is unchanged. I
believe that if I lived to be a thousand and were left
with some glimmer of eyesight, this delight would
remain. If only we could clean off the world from
this Earth. But at least once every spring on a fine
morning that is what we seem to do, as we stare
again at the blossom and are back in Eden. We
could complain and complain, but we have lived and
have seen the blossom-apple, pear, cherry, plum,
almond blossom-in the sun ; and the best among
us cannot pretend they deserve-or could con-
trive anything better.