THE BEAUTY THINGS                    PURCHASE            

The Beauty Things is an exploration of our relationship with stuff. Not just the clutter we’re encouraged to desire, but the things which carry and connect us; to people, to place and to the past. Things that find us, that possess us even when we can find no logic to the bond. They’re on the mantelpiece and the windowsill, in the drawer or the corner of your eye. Used every day or gathering cobwebs; it makes no difference. Some things just matter

It has always been that way. We like to think that things are simple; goods bought and sold, easy come, easy go. But that is just a part of it. In reality, we make sense of the world, tell the stories of our lives, through the things we make and use, those we give and receive, and the stuff that otherwise sticks to us. We shore up our uncertainties with objects that help us remember and which keep us safe. And many of those things have biographies as complex as our own. Indeed, if some of them could speak, and if we could understand them, they would probably tell us that we are simply passing through their stories.

Universal and deeply personal, this entanglement with stuff is something that Alan and I have been talking about for some time. Nothing organised, just a rambling conversation around and about some of the things that matter to us.  Wandering between archaeology, folklore, anthroplogy and literature, it’s a conversation had for the pleasure of it. And on that common ground, we’ve found ourselves returning again and again to themes that animate our work; to issues of time and memory and the place that objects occupy in the stories we tell. At first glance, this might seem rather curious.  After all, Alan is widely regarded as one of our most pre- eminent writers of place, working with language that is deeply and powerfully rooted in the landscape. Yet in all of his work, objects play crucial roles. From weapons with names and talismans in chimneys to the tools that carry their owners, his stories often turn upon the bonds between artefacts and people. An identity carved with chisels, an obligation carried in a gift of stone, the passage of a life marked in the getting and letting go of things. It’s a rich seam to work.

The book began to take shape a few years ago, when we put together a morning of conversation at the Oxford Literary Festival. In the Convocation House at the Bodeleian Library, we kept things simple, talking about objects that featured in three novels; The Weirdstone of BrisingamenStrandloper and the The Stone Book Quartet. On that occasion we had the great good fortune to have our ramblings run in parallel with readings from each book, delivered with great skill by Robert Powell. I doubt that anyone who was there will forget his rendition of the entirety of The Stone Book, which brought proceedings to a close. After that, and with time left for the dust to settle, we began to think about taking things further, this time on the page. Once again, it made sense to tackle objects from the novels, some of them characters in their own right. But we also wanted to widen the focus, taking in other things that have, over the years, held an importance for Alan and for the way he tells his story.  Sources of inspiration, subjects of obsession, cues for memory and things that have kept him safe.

What we have come up with is avowedly not A History of Alan Garner in 100 Objects, a biography, auto or otherwise, to be taken as coherent or complete in any way. The Beauty Things is instead a record, and a fragmented one at that, of conversations we’ve had at the kitchen table, by the fire and up on Alderley Edge. Conversations about time, memory and materials that have touched upon the power that objects possess and the inadequacy of most of our attempts to discipline them.