Monday, August 28, 2006

Blinded by Love

P. D. James and Harriet Harvey Wood, editors
Sightlines
London: Vintage, 2001. (392 p.)
ISBN 0-099-42282-4 (£7.99)

Sightlines is a collection of new writing published to support the Royal National Institute for the Blind and its Talking Book Appeal. As the introduction explains, the RNIB's Talking Book service provides "pleasure, stimulus, entertainment and life-enhancing joy of literature to thousands of deeply appreciative listeners" (vii). Contributors were not restricted by subject or style, but the editors have included several passages "about the lack of sight from sources as widely varied in time as the Bible and modern fiction" (viii). Authors included in the anthology include A. S. Byatt, Douglas Dunn, Ruth Rendell, David Lodge, Doris Lessing, Peter Porter, Michèle Roberts, Anthony Thwaite, Fay Weldon, Tibor Fischer, and many, many others.

Julian Barnes contributed a short story titled "The Things You Know" (138-150). Broken into three sections, the story tells of a friendship between two women, Merrill and Janice, who meet regularly for breakfast and conversation. Both women are widowed, but the memory of their husbands lingers and is often discussed. The story does not deal with the physical subject of sight or blindness, but it is apparent that love each woman still carries for their spouse causes them to be unable to see clearly certain truths about their marriage. The pacing and subject matter are clean and light compared with some of Barnes's more recent short stories, such as "Appetite" (published in Areté). Craig Raine, editor of Areté, also contributes a fine poem titled "Dasvidanye: the Russian for Goodbye" for the Sightlines volume.

For more information about the Royal National Institute for the Blind and its services, please visit their website at http://www.rnib.org.uk/

-- Ryan Roberts, September 2001

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