There is such spiced, luxuriant pleasure in realising within the first few pages that the book you have just started is a treasure chest. I’ve been sulking at John Steinbeck since “The Grapes of Wrath” put me into days of agonised rage bitterer than I had known since early childhood, when one of my sisters stole my favourite toy and convinced my mother it was hers. Injustice slit me like razor blades. I was angry, so angry I couldn’t sleep. I blamed the book. Now I look back in awe at a novelist with such moral power, but texturing so confidently and with such restraint that I never heard his voice.
Now I find that my lambent moments are perfectly described in ‘Travels with Charley’. If you haven’t read it, get to the library now.
OK, now you’re back from the library, let me tell you what intrigued me so much. Steinbeck reckons that the breathless long droplet of a lambent moment, when past and present and future collapse into one, can only happen when you’re alone. I described lambent moments as those times where you can’t tell if it’s poetry, art or life that is so beautiful. Where time abolishes sequence, and ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ are powerless and a moment holds you in thrall to ‘yes’.
I have never seen this described elsewhere, until now. I feel simultaneously gazumped and comprehended. On the whole, it’s a lovely feeling. To boldly go unawares where great feet have trod is affirming as well as deflating. A view is not necessarily spoilt by signs of habitation. I’m not sure he’s right that one has to be alone though- my lambent moments bring their bubble walls with them. I become alone even if I’m not physically. We walk the valley of the shadow of life alone, as well as the other one.