Prefaces are always written after, but pretend to be from before – the philosopher Hegel thought they were a hindrance to knowledge – but Hegel’s work, says a preface, was just a play of prefaces – I’ll tell you something about a book I once read from cover to cover called O: Violet Horses Today – as I reclined on a velvet chaise longue – savouring its luscious bunches of thought proffered by its erudite author – i.e. me, as this is a preface – sorry no, it was actually quite difficult to read – it was an essay that did not make a shortlist – a slim volume, The End of Prefaces – ‘scraps of text rearranged in some as-of-yet unforeseen web of connections’ – I had abandoned myself to it, come snow or storm – my children asleep while I sweated under lamplight – the moon as overcast as a sable grape – unopened bills piling up like stacks of crumpled handkerchiefs – some reviewers called it ‘dirge-like’ – I must say now, I am ashamed of it – should have spent the time instead making thick, nourishing soups like the truth – I can tell you now exactly a summary of what it contained – a story – a sad and long story – about a girl who was at another child’s birthday party – she saw a magician pour flour and currants into a velvet hat – he tapped it with a magician’s wand, and out came a real cake – well, who wouldn’t be amazed by that – the girl wasn’t interested, in the party – she just wanted to eat the cake – but the cake had disappeared – she went home and wrote a story in felt-tip, Ghost Buffet – and at the end, of course – The End in optimistic, curly letters – ‘a string of desultory assertions’ – then she thought better of it – put this page under running water – in the bathroom sink – that itself reached out like a tail – some call it a vine – tell me – what it is reaching towards –

Lucy Mercer

Jamie Shovlin
Untitled (Study for Grapes), 2021