A well-chosen, thoughtful epigraph can establish the tone for the book journey you're about to embark on. However many authors spend a lot of time and effort on finding the perfect epigraph only for it to be skimmed over by most readers.
For the reader who does consider the epigraph, its true significance may not become apparent until the end of the book, by which time it has been long forgotten.
It's time to rectify this sad, sad wrong.
It's time to save the epigraph from obscurity!
I'm currently reading one of this year's Miles Franklin shortlisted books, The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O'Flynn. His epigraph is by Oscar Wilde, Letters from Paris, 1900.
The Last Days of Ava Langdon is loosely based on the real life story of Eve Langley, author of The Pea Pickers. She and her sister, famously, defiantly dressed as a young men during the 1920's and travelled around rural Victoria picking peas and hops. She used her memories and experiences of this time to create her book The Pea Pickers.
At some point after this, it is claimed that she began 'equating creativity and artistic freedom with masculinity'. In 1954 she changed her name by deed poll to Oscar Wilde, who she believed was her alter ego. J. L. Thwaite's biography of her was titled The Importance of Being Eve Langley (1989).
The Oscar Wilde connection is, therefore, pretty obvious, but I am yet to understand the reference to miracles. There is a religious element as well as a homage to a Shakespearean quote from Henry V i. i. 67 It must be so; for miracles are ceased;
but the rest is yet to be discovered.
The full quote from Letters to Paris is:
I hope to be in Rome in about 10 days - and this time I really must become a Catholic - though I fear that if I went before the Holy Father with a blossoming rod it would turn at once into an umbrella or something dreadful of that kind. It is absurd to say that the age of miracles is past. It has yet to begun.
It’s been twenty years since Ava Langdon published her much-lauded novel The Apple Pickers, but today could very well be the day her genius is finally recognised again. Armed with a freshly completed manuscript, a yellow cravat and a machete, Ava strides out into the world in the hope of being published – and so the adventure begins. Despite being dismissed as an eccentric – or worse – by the world around her, and battling poverty and age, Ava’s internal world remains vivid; her purpose, clear.
Author Mark O’Flynn first learned about legendary Blue Mountains writer and recluse Eve Langley when he stumbled across her abandoned hut outside the small town of Leura. Though he moved on to other projects, Langley’s voice stayed with him: ‘Why did she change her name (by deed poll) to Oscar Wilde? Why the romantic preoccupation with her past? So little is known of her final days.’ O’Flynn’s fascination with her life eventually led to the creation of the irrepressible Ava Langdon.
Rich in wordplay and colourful anecdote, The Last Days of Ava Langdon is an intimate, witty and soulful conjuring of a once-great artist in her final days, which will leave the reader questioning – what passion would sustain you if everything was lost?
Epigraph Philosophy has the potential to become a personal meme. I like taking the time to research these quotes. It has added to my reading pleasure.
Have you come across a particularly meaningful, insightful or startling epigraph in your recent reading?
I'd love to know what it is and why it took your fancy.
Did you connect to it personally?
Did it put you off or lead you into the story?
Did the quote only make sense once you got into the story? Or at the end?
What does a little bit of googling reveal about your epigraph?
If you'd like to write your own #epigraphphilosophy post please add you link in the comments below.
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If this becomes a thing, I would happily consider another name/hashtag, if any of you have a talent for naming memes!
To finish, I leave you with a Montaigne quote,
I quote others only in order the better to express myself.