Penelope Lively

Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir

“Age may sideline but it also confers a sort of neutrality: you are no longer out there in the thick of things, but able to stand back, observe, consider.”

Penelope Lively, OBE (b. 1931) British novelist and Man Booker Prize winner, has written much fiction in her 85 years. I consistently find her non-fiction the most engaging. Perhaps because it pertains to gardening and, in her these memoirs Dancing Fish and Ammonites, memory.

On memory, Lively notes it functions as a ballast keeping us anchored in meaning “the mind needs a tether,” but it also releases us from the “hideous, eternal present.” Memory pulls us into and through time. As it does, we form ourselves. It will always represent something we have but cannot have. A life of 85 years has quite a collection of memories about a wonderfully-formed person who is Lively.

Novelist Graham Greene wrote “Memory is like a long broken night. As I write, it is as thought I am.” Read more on the suggestive nature of memory in Greene’s memoir A Sort of Life.