Author: Sarah

Hot Milk & Eileen | edge of evening

The female body: Eileen & Hot Milk

It’s up to you to break the old circuits.Hélène Cixous, ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’, epigraph to ‘Hot Milk’ by Deborah Levy So often with reading, it’s all about the connections. The secret conversations between one book and the next. And, blue covers & Booker shortlist connection aside, the two books I ended last year with had a lot to talk to one another about. Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen and Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk could stay up all night talking about mothers (alive and dead), fathers (alcoholic and abandoning), alienation, boldness, sexuality, and the female body. They’re also both compulsively readable novels. I came to Ottessa Moshfegh through her short stories which are fearless and physical and altogether unlike anything else. I highly recommend ‘Bettering Myself’ in the Paris Review (subscription or free trial needed to read the whole story). Eileen is set over a few days before Christmas in 1964 and narrated by a much older Eileen looking back on her twenty-four year old self and what turned out to be her last few days in X-ville, the …

Begin Again | edge of evening

Begin again

And so, again we start at the beginning. Maybe we even start a little way back, looking for the point where we lost ourselves in the pre-Christmas rush. Trying to pick up the threads of what we were thinking, what we were doing, where we were heading. Each time I resolve to hold tighter to that thread, but I think now that losing it — or at least setting it aside for a time — is all part of these years with young children. The trick might be to put it somewhere you will remember it; to pick it up again as soon as you can. So here’s what I’m doing: Waking early again to read in the still-dark house. (Solmaz Sharif’s stunning collection , Look, is making it so that I practically leap out of bed.) Noticing. Linda Gregg’s essay The Art of Finding is the thing I always come back to when I feel I’ve stopped seeing & so I’m doing my six things religiously. (“I have my students keep a journal in …

Wildeve in frost | edge of evening

Four

I sometimes find myself thinking the strangest things. One of these thoughts, which occurs somewhere towards the end of every school term is, it’s always some time of the year. It sounds like a complaint, and in some ways it is, but I take comfort from it. It’s true, if it’s not nearly the summer holidays, then it’s Harvest Festival, or Easter, or someone’s birthday, or it’s Christmas. And though each of these things means that cakes have to be baked or presents wrapped or costumes acquired or fashioned, they’re also the rhythm to our year, the seasonal beat to our children’s childhoods. I just looked back at this time last year. Once again, it’s the school Christmas Fair tomorrow. We celebrated the Pip-Pop turning four last weekend. Earlier in the week one of his pre-school teachers heard me calling him Mops (Popsy/Pops/Mops — all still in use) & laughed. And I thought, oh, yes, he’s C to you. He sat down at the table earlier in the week and declared that he was going …

Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce | edge of evening

Love Me Back

I knew nothing about Merritt Tierce’s debut novel Love Me Back when I picked it off the shelf at the library a few weeks back. I’d only heard of Tierce because I’d read her widely circulated essay on money and writing back in September, in which she wrote about the financial reality that followed publishing a first novel to ‘wide acclaim’, For over a year after Love Me Back came out I woke up every day with this loop in my head: I should write. But I need money. If I write something I can sell it and I’ll have money. But I need money now. If I had money now, I could calm down and write something. I don’t have money now, so I’m probably not going to be able to calm down and write something. To have money now, I need a job. I should get a job.Merritt Tierce I remember reading that piece and feeling sympathy, but also thinking, maybe your book just isn’t as good as you think it is. I was so very …

post-election reading | edge of evening

What are you going through?

I had put dark brackets around the paragraph that began, “The love of our neighbour in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: ‘What are you going through?’” [Simone] Weil was talking about the Grail quest, about the king afflicted with a terrible wound, experiencing excruciating pain. She was talking about suffering. The Grail was said to belong to the one who is compelled, feels the compassion, knows to ask, and, most importantly, has the courage to ask the king, “What are you going through?” Which seemed a very easy thing to do, but of course this is complicated by those cold and sometimes necessary distances we keep from one another as human beings, by our reservations, by our worries about what might be appropriate, by protocols, by hesitation, by over-interpretation of who the sorrowing suffering Grail king might truly be. How is one to do this?Rumi and the Red Handbag by Shawna Lemay I’m a firm believer in the serendipity of reading: that each book finds us when we most need …

Wildeve buds in frost | edge of evening

Talking to myself (or, go & read these essays)

After half-term & various illnesses and school events etc, Wednesday was the first day in three weeks that everyone has been at school/pre-school for their full hours. And, oh, the joy of those precious hours alone. I read so many good things that morning & I wanted to share a couple of them here — though I suspect that many of you will already have read them. * Firstly, I reread Rachael Nevins on Elena Ferrante’s Frantumaglia. I love this essay so much! I’ve enjoyed Rachael’s blog for years & so it was wonderful to read how she recognised her personal ‘frantumaglia’ in Ferrante’s fiction. Few people know about my phobia, because it is so peculiar that even I can hardly account for it; now I have a word I can use to tell the strangest thing about me, the way that my mind snags on certain objects of the world, allowing an inexplicably horrifying disorder to tumble in. “Why might you have felt that you were going to pieces?” asked my therapist after my honeymoon. Her question seemed to be beside the …

Human Acts by Han Kang | edge of evening

Human Acts

Some memories never heal. Rather than fading with the passage of time, those memories become the only things that are left behind when all else is abraded. The world darkens, like electric bulbs going out one by one. I am aware that I am not a safe person. Is it true that human beings are fundamentally cruel? Is the experience of cruelty the only thing we share as a species? Is the dignity that we cling to nothing but self-delusion, masking from ourselves this single truth: that each one of us is capable of being reduced to an insect, a ravening beast, a lump of meat? To be degraded, damaged, slaughtered — is this the essential fate of human kind, one which history has confirmed as inevitable?Human Acts by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith It’s Wednesday morning, the last week of term. Later, I will pick Pops up from pre-school early & together we will go to church for the school Harvest Festival service. The sky is a high distant blue streaked …

Mothers by Rachel Zucker | edge of evening

Mothers

And then I was a mother. The mother. And all my mothers could not save me.Mothers by Rachel Zucker It’s hard to remember quite how I came to be having a Rachel Zucker phase. I hung out with this poem by Jenny Browne for quite a while earlier in the year and, as much as I loved the poem, I also loved Zucker’s assessment of it as, ‘a delightfully strange poem: seductive but not coy in its disclosures’. (A dusty post-it note stuck my copy of the poem says ‘inhabiting a poem’, a phrase from an interview with Sarah Howe. Howe, I later discovered, like Zucker, was once a student of Jorie Graham.) There was a phase of internet obsession with Zucker: reading some of her poems, finding out that she’s a mother of three sons, that she’s trained and worked as a doula. That she writes about the messy, the real, the concerns of life and of motherhood: My poems have trash in them. Also: soccer balls, puke, toddlers, the New York City subway, dirty …

Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano | edge of evening

We love: Catherine Certitude

In the mornings, Papa would wake me up. He would have made breakfast, which was waiting on our little table. He would open the shutters, and I could see him from the back, framed by the window. He looked out over the landscape of roofs, and way in the distance, to the glass done of the Gare de l’Est station. As he knotted his tie, he would say, in a thoughtful or sometimes very resolute tone, “Life, it’s just you and me.”Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano Catherine Certitude looked so beautiful that I picked it off the library shelf for nine-year-old T — & then I read the back and knew that it was coming straight home with us: ballet! Paris! childhood memories! Yes please! It’s now been passed from T to me, and then from me to B and I think we’ve all fallen under its atmospheric spell. It’s a slim tale told in short sections of prose, beautifully illustrated by Sempé. Like that Christmas stalwart The Snowman, it opens with an adult encountering an object which leads them …

all the books | edge of evening

All the books

Ten years ago this September, we went on holiday to the south of France. We were staying in a remote barn about an hour from Carcassonne. We got lost on the way, famously going the ‘wrong’ way — or at least the long way — round a mountain, on a road so narrow we couldn’t turn back. When we finally reached the road the property was closest to, we bumped up a steep and twisting 2km unpaved track in our rental car. Parked outside the stone barn there was an ancient yellow Citroën 2CV which looked like it might never make it back down the track. The barn was owned by an actor who lived in Barcelona & she’d furnished its open-plan room simply but perfectly: a low double bed, two desks each beneath its own window, a small sofa and armchair in the middle of the room, & a kitchen in one corner. There was a woodburner in the centre of the room & the September evenings in the mountains were cool enough for us to use …