Although it seems shocking to say so, grief is a funny thing. On the one hand, you’re numb, yet on the other, something inside is trying desperately to claw its way back to normal: to pull a funny face, to leap out like a jack-in-the-box, to say “Smile, damn you, smile!

Do What?’
‘Lie,’ he said. ‘Why do you fabricate these outlandish stories?’
‘Well,’ I wanted to say, ‘there are those of us who create because all around us, things visible and invisible are crumbling. We are like the stonemasons of Babylon, forever working, as it says in Jeremiah, to shore up the city of walls.’
I didn’t say that, of course. What I did say was: ‘I don’t know.

I had found by experience that putting things down on paper helped to clear the mind in precisely the same way, as Mrs. Mullet had taught me, that an eggshell clarifies the consommé or the coffee, which, of course, is a simple matter of chemistry. The albumin contained in the eggshell has the property of collecting and binding the rubbish that floats in the dark liquid, which can then be removed and discarded in a single reeking clot: a perfect description of the writing process.

How could tickling, even though it causes laughter, be at the same time such a vicious form of torture?

Sitting on the edge of my bed, I thought it through.

I came to the conclusion, at last, that it was like this: Tickling and learning were much the same thing. When you tickle yourself–ecstasy; but when anyone else tickles you–agony.

I have no fear of the dead. Indeed in my own limited experience I have found them to produce in me a feeling that is quite the opposite of fear. A dead body is much more fascinating than a live one and I have learned that most corpses tell better stories. I’d had the good fortune of seeing several of them in my time.