Andrew O’Hagan (2020) Mayflies.
Posted by celticman on Sun, 22 Jan 2023
I’ve seen the film, now I’ve read the book. Yeh, I know that’s the wrong order. Books are better. But I got there in the end. That gives me a pivot to spin on and talk about endings being beginnings. When you’re young, you never think you’ll get old. And when you’re old you never think about dying, until you have to. ‘Make death proud to take you.’
I’ve hung that out there. A quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Noodles is the man for quotes. But Tully Dawson is the man for living it. They all are. The gang of 1986 that went to Manchester to listen to music and take on the world.
‘The Manufacture of Nostalgia’. We all do it. But it becomes more poignant. A necessity even when we get to the end of our lives. Tully’s fifty-seven and dying, terminal cancer, but not quickly enough. His wedding to Anna a promise and affirmation of life. But ‘he was making room for death’.
Death has its reckoning not in death but in life. Anna wants him to fight it, to find more time.
‘He wanted places perched on the lips of a good time, places safe from the pity or the evil of the chemo, and he wanted to pretend he said that the pain was only a state of mind. The treatment had given him months.’
Noodles is the narrator. He admits, ‘I needed his kindness once.’ Tully Dawson gave him a sense of family and belonging, and helped him escape from the Ayrshire coast to a different life. One of the themes is what do we owe each other? Should kindness be called in like a bad debt? What right has Tully to ask Noodles to help him die, especially when he’s got a wife and got a life?
‘The say you know nothing at eighteen. But there are things at eighteen you know that you’ll never know.’
Does Tully know more at 57, or he is just pretending he does (as we all do)? Saying is not doing. Matteo and Digitalis in Switzerland are as far enough away as the cool girl Noodles tried to date after they’d bumped into Morrissey in Manchester all those years ago. Was Limbo then on that fast track to drink and drugs and death in his thirties? Could they have done more? Would they have done more? Probably not. We all know somebody like that. When it’s family there’s no escaping.
What do friends, best friends, owe to each other? Honesty and kindness that’s a good start and a good ending. Read on.