This is a moving and engaging book with moments of hilarity and a real ability to engage. I thought about this book throughout the day and looked forward to getting back to it at night. I lost hours of sleep because it was so hard to put it down. It’s atmospheric and I haven’t felt so engaged with a book for a long time.
‘And You May Find Yourself’ by Paul Dalgarno, published by Sleepers Publishing is about all kinds of love; romantic love, parental love, paternal love, love that covers time and distance, love that cocoons and sustains and tortures and terrifies, it’s about internal pressures more than external pressures; how they can silence us and hide us away from the people we love most, it’s about the restrictions that patriarchy has placed on men, it’s about the spirit that carries us through the most difficult days, it’s about the support that’s all around us – the support that we might lose sight of sometimes, before we wake up to it again, amazed.
There is a key scene for me in the book. (This could be considered a spoiler so stop reading here if that bothers you) I’ll intro the impact this scene had on me by saying I don’t want to offend anyone, I really don’t, but I’ve always had a kind of contempt for cyclists. It’s been a hidden contempt I hope because again, I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I watch them riding down roads, crossing footpaths, lifting their heads to the sky and slurping from their drink bottles like regurgitating birds, hunching over their bikes like they’re hoarding some precious stone from the rest of the world, like they’re trying to devour an entire roast chicken before guests arrive for dinner, their pointy helmets and slick black skin-tight riding pants make them look a little like… well worms really, as much as they want to appear like human bullets, more focused and driven and less reliant on Google maps than most, as if they’re trying to present themselves as superior in some way – consciously distancing themselves from the waste and sloth of us ‘others’ who are cushioned in our city clogging motor vehicles – when all I could ever really see when I was forced to slow down to avoid running over one of them was a division of humans who are were simply, neurotically, determined to make an A to B journey as difficult as possible.
Cycling plays a key part in Paul’s life inside this book and there is so much that can be said about how cycling anchored him to his new place in the world at the same time that it was emancipating, at the same time that it focused him through uncertainty and doubt and insecurity, but in cutting to the chase I just wanted to say that I have not cried reading a book for a long time.
After much late night love and lusting over a favourite bike in a bike shop Paul, with the permission of his family, and under financial and psychological duress, is able to finally acquire it. Paul takes it back to the house where the family – Julie, Simon, Jess and the boys – are waiting for him.
I read the two paragraphs that followed this scene – the short simple descriptions and comments – and was aware that Paul and his family, while focussing solely on the bike, were communicating so much more. It told me that the love and support around Paul – which may have been overshadowed by the manic, pressured – sometimes even ‘dark’ earlier scenes of the book, had always been there.
This came through so strongly for me that I started crying as if I was watching a kind of homecoming complete with cheering, jumping, happy tears and much group hugging. Like Sebastian from the Never Ending Story, I had to put the book down to break from the intensity. I looked to the ceiling, wiping tears away, saying, ‘What? How the fuck did you do that man?’
This is how engaged I was with the book. That reaction around the bike, for me, was about all that had happened in the pages before it and about all that was to come and it’s what in the end made the book a joyful one for me. I wanted Paul and his family to win, I wanted them to find their way through.
Paul’s book has changed me. I don’t have a contempt for cyclists anymore. I even like them. I slow down for them. I sometimes even wave. This is no small thing, changing a man so suddenly. Under every pointy helmet, beneath every set of shiny bike pants, I see a real person now. I see Paul.
Paul Dalgarno is a writer who is able to unleash himself upon the page, to give us everything all at once, heart and soul in every line.
Buy ‘And You May Find Yourself’ here