Michael Foley is fast becoming a personal favourite. If “The Age of Absurdity” was a pleasant surprise, “Embracing The Ordinary” has been nothing short of a revelation. Inspired by Marcel Proust and James Joyce – terming both the ‘high priests of low life’ – Foley proceeds to highlight the myriad emotions, opportunities and joys unearthed by the two great authors from seemingly mundane stuff forming part of everyday existence. As Foley himself goes on to say “everything happens when nothing is happening”.
The crux of Foley’s inspiration takes the shape of two seminal books authored by his idols – ‘À la recherche du temps perdu’ by Marcel Proust and ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce. Seemingly bereft of both plot and panache, these novels posed immense challenges to the reader. Irreverent at some times and irascible at others, some of the passages in both the novels were controversial and vitriolic enough to provoke derision, disgust and despair. Paying scant respect to propriety and discarding mores of convention, both Joyce and Proust packed enough incendiary materials in their tomes to shock and awe. However where the ordinary reader finds repulsion, Foley seeks reverence. Viewing both the works as objects deserving to be deified, Foley writes effortlessly about the attitude of the authors which spurred them on to infer joy from triviality. Ordinary conversations take a hue of delectable delight, spontaneous exclamations are a source of channeling the spirit within and a languorous walk the repository of knowledge hitherto unknown.
Foley’s writing is uncompromising and without any inhibitions. Not hesitating to set his deepest, darkest thoughts on paper, Foley to a great extent emulates his heroes by resorting to details which if not downright revolting, surely evoke a squirm of discomfiture. But it is this very thought provoking method that makes us, as readers more curious and thereby wanting to have more of the Foley form of expression. We are also constantly reminded not to get bogged down by the apprehensions of the future or to fall prey to the burdens of the past. It is the present that matters and the encapsulation of the very essence of the present lies in the ordinariness that characterizes it. The more we attempt to disengage ourselves from the welcoming embrace of the present, the more disillusioned we become getting mired into the quicksand of unrealistic expectations. The key, according to Foley is to learn to admire, appreciate and adopt the ordinariness that life bestows upon all of us and to bask in its reflected glory.
The charm of “Embracing The Ordinary” lies less in its narration, than in the invaluable precepts that it attempts to honestly convey. For which, we ought to be thankful to Michael Foley!