'The Pursuit of a Past' by Bob Hill
Emery Down can pinpoint moments through fashion, music and art. He doesn’t repeat the mistake of the surrealists who put themselves at the service of the revolution right when it had ceased to exist. No, Emery recognises the ritual force of rhythm and it’s far from infallible method and recognises the reliability, or not, of all the evidence for the relationships between different groups.
Contemplating the holy pincer that, at this moment, is crushing his own brain power Emery decides that in order to discover the treasures of a cut-price paradise he should let a romantic novelist be his guide. Finding himself drawn to a photograph of a young woman stood outside St Hilda’s college he forensically examines the picture, both as artefact and as a page of the text that it could be.
On initial examination the woman’s garb and the patina of the photographic paper suggest an image of the post Great War brave new world of early 1920s female academia; a bluestocking perhaps. However, further examination of the photograph; her books, her hat worn at an angle, the smile, the books she carries and the way she compels the camera to capture that single moment on her terms, reveals to Emery further clues which suggest a life of poetry interwoven with reticence, of sexuality interwoven with expectation, of intelligence interwoven with conflict and of whimsy interwoven with an imposed order.
Emery fails to remain unmoved. Questions come to him as beats from a drummer in a Be-Bop ensemble; who is the photographer, could it be a suitor, Is the suitor male or female, does this suitor deserve her, will her heart be broken by the person taking this picture?
Emery makes a decision and begins writing, she will die.