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EditorialsUp Front 10/09

Up Front 10/09

Someone asked me recently what was this magazine’s position on a particular local ‘issue’. I explained that as there are plenty of sources of local news, we have always tried to concentrate on simply highlighting the people, the events and the history of the local community. ‘Issues’, we always thought, were best dealt with by people with more resources. But reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture recently reminded me of how little we really know about what happens in our world. The book revolves around the story of one woman’s life, as remembered and written by her when nearly 100 years of age, along with another account as researched by a doctor in charge of the mental asylum in which she lives. At all times it is hard to guess what really happened in her life. One of the characters points out that history is not the arrangement of what happens, ‘but a fabulous arrangement of surmises and guesses’. At the end of the book we are presented with what for some will be an obvious revelation, but beyond the plot we are left with niggling concerns. They mostly revolve around what is to be believed and what is not. Like the news. Often international, national and even local news has its own agenda, but once it’s in print it so easily becomes historic fact to all but a small few. Sebastian Barry questions the nature of history. ‘Is it only memory in decent sentences, and if so, how reliable is it?’ He points out that we live our lives and even keep our sanity through unreliability, even building our love of country on what he calls, ‘paper worlds of misapprehension and untruth.’ Maybe, as a magazine, we should throw our oar into local issues. But how can we be sure that what we plant into history isn’t influenced by a hidden agenda, a favour for a friend, a complete misunderstanding of events or even the vagaries of a writer’s ego.

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