Iread Susan Dominus’s Motherhood, Screened Off last week as I guess a lot of you did too, coming to it, yes, through a link on Twitter while I was in the kitchen ostensibly preparing tea. I loved her evocation of her mother’s address book, which made me think of my own mother’s address book and telephone book — and the earlier telephone book, spiral bound, whose white plastic binding eventually disintegrated with age and use.
But the guilt I felt reading Dominus’s argument that our smartphones make our actions — checking the weather, looking up a friend’s address — mysterious to our children, was all focussed on the book she was reading on her phone at her sons’ soccer practice when another mother called them both out on staring into their devices: Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision.
Because Binocular Vision has been sitting on my shelf unread for a year or so. A charity shop find that I was so very pleased with because I’d read the reviews of this collection of Pearlman’s selected and new stories, and because I always love meeting a book that seems destined to come home with you. Here it was: hardbacked, slightly water-stained on the jacket, but seemingly unread.
So, I’ve spent the little gaps in the weekend putting that right. In bed late on Saturday night, drinking coffee in the garden on Sunday afternoon. Ann Patchett writes in her introduction, “Put her stories beside those of John Updike and Alice Munro. That’s where they belong.” And she may be right (though I haven’t read Updike), but there’s also something distinctly Edith Pearlman about these stories. One reminded me a little of Grace Paley, but otherwise they are a taste at once familiar — the beautiful, elegant compression of the arc of a life into a four or five page story, or of a resonant moment into a life — and definitively new. I’ve read five of the 34 stories (at random rather than in order) and my rough tally stands at three suicides plus another death and a strange number of doctors from the suburbs of Boston. They sound depressing, but they’re not. And I can’t get enough of them.
“The boys were dribbling their way around cones; I was in the gym bleachers, moved by Pearlman’s meditations on mortality, having a bit of a moment in an unlikely place,” writes Dominus. I might just take Pearlman — in all her hardbacked glory — to the Moose’s football practice tonight.
I suffer not from blogger’s remorse, but from blogger’s regret: there seems always to be plenty to say, but never enough time to say it, and then somehow the moment passes and I forget what I found interesting in whatever it was in the first place. So here’s to some shorter, hopefully more frequent posts while I try to keep up with my thoughts.
The Indian summer I was hoping for is here. Last night the sky was completely clear. We set the alarm for 3am & stood together in the loft gazing at the mesmerising stars and the eerily beautiful super blood moon: orange-red with just a slim smile of silver, gradually vanishing, at the bottom. A magical mini-date in the middle of the night.