The new Granta (Unbelievable, pounds 7.99) aims to haul us back to sanity. Editor Ian Jack has interviewed nine of the dissidents who publicly expressed their refusal to mourn in the media-approved ways. I can't agree with his contention that the frenzied fortnight of early September involved no more than "grief with the pain removed, grief-lite", for that presumes access to millions of other minds that neither he nor anybody else can claim. But Jack composes his round-up of emotional heretics into a powerful document that historians should keep and study when they come to specify the climate of our time. Ian Hislop speaks up for the downright sceptics when he savages that "brain-out-of-the- window stuff" that ruled the airwaves, but more typical are the perplexed observers with bereavements of their own to handle. Music student Elizabeth Stern, who this year lost both parents in a car crash, mentions the friend who failed to buy flowers for their funeral but spent pounds 50 on Diana's. "I find it hard to speak to her."
As a tacit reproach to Diana-mania, Granta closes with a truly heartbreaking testament from the novelist Clive Sinclair. Within a few years, Sinclair has lost his wife and sister-in-law to cancer, his mother to peritonitis and his father to a heart attack, while himself suffering kidney disease that needed a transplant.
Of course, an overload of real grief will tend to freeze, not gush. Sinclair's "Soap Opera from Hell" deploys a laconic, third-person voice to capture this paralysis. At last, in Jerusalem for a book fair, a sort of happiness - or at least resignation - returns thanks to a bright light in the sky. It's not a star but a comet: the "spume of silver in the north-western quadrant" that located Hale-Bopp. "The last people to witness it were the Ancient Egyptians. Now it was his turn. What was humanity to Hale- Bopp? Nothing but sentient plankton."Reuse content