All posts filed under: motherhood

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer | edge of evening

The Pumpkin Eater

A womb isn’t all that important. It’s only the seat of life, something that drags the moon down from the sky like a kite and draws the sea in and out, in and out, the world’s breathing. At school the word ‘womb’ used to make them snigger. Women aren’t important.The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer I‘ve been doing a lot of rereading these past few weeks. Looking back at books I’ve loved & trying to  see them afresh, wondering always how they cast their magic. But one new-to-me book I have read is Penelope Mortimer’s slim 1962 novel, The Pumpkin Eater, now reissued as both a NYRB Classic and a Penguin Classic. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of a woman married to her fourth husband, an up and coming screenwriter (based on the author’s husband, John Mortimer) and the consequences of his infidelities and her focus on their home and many, many children. The writing is so fresh — funny and moving by turns — with wonderful dialogue and a great deal of space between what is …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

The Baby in the Mirror by Charles Fernyhough | edge of evening

The Baby in the Mirror

She wove language from the plainest of threads. Before she could talk, she could spin lengths of undifferentiated sound, just by voicing an outbreath and letting the noise push out on a flow of exhaled air. By eight weeks she could shape her mouth to make a contented ur-ur, expressing satisfaction at the way the world looked and the fact that she was at the centre of it. Her growing awareness of reality meant multiplying objects of desire, new ways for her material ambitions to be thwarted.The Baby in the Mirror by Charles Fernyhough It’s strange, but I’ve read so much about motherhood that it’s easy to overlook how very little I’ve read about fatherhood. Nicolson Baker’s wonderful Room Temperature. Peter Carey’s essay A Letter to Our Son. I think of Gilead but although that is a wonderful book of fatherly love, it is, of course, written by a mother not a father. It doesn’t amount to much. So it was wonderful to read The Baby in the Mirror, a tender and searching account of the first three years of life from a …

Geranium | edge of evening

Headlong

Last night the knife slipped when I was making dinner. When I uncurled my right hand from the middle finger of my left, ready to see the fresh red of my blood, there was nothing. Looking closer at a finger that throbbed numbly but wasn’t bleeding, I saw that I had sliced right through my fingernail. A thin line of red appeared: a backslash on the nail bed. I called B to come and finish chopping the onion. This morning I’ve come out to the coffee shop to be looked after by the beautiful young people. Girls with glossy long hair and impossibly thin waists. Boys with plaid shirts and black skinny jeans. They bring my coffee to me and I sit and watch them work and read Kate Zambreno. The place is full of newborns. I feel like I’ve been crying all night — though in reality the tears are constantly at the back of my eyes, prickling, threatening to fall. “What has been omitted?” asks Zambreno. “What has been scratched out? Days, lives, wives.” She is writing …

3, 6, 9

3, 6, 9

Although everything I write is, in its way, about them, I don’t write that much about them here. Partly this is because I thought I’d only just given you an update about them, but it seems two years have passed since this. So, here we go. There was the annual beautiful chaos of T’s birthday party a few weeks ago. Thirteen girls this year, plus the two brothers. Craft inside — ceramic pens on birds, hearts & mugs — then pizza at the table at the bottom of the garden. Spontaneous French skipping, then pass-the-parcel and the crazy ‘chocolate game’. T threw her arms around each of her friends as they arrived at the front door and her delight, as always, reminded me of her sitting on the step waiting for the first guest to arrive at her second birthday party & her total joy when the doorbell went. She looked ridiculously beautiful in her own inimitable style — wearing one of her dresses from our wedding last year over three-quarter length leggings, her long hair clipped …

Love by Clarice Lispector | edge of evening

Short stories: ‘Love’ by Clarice Lispector

A series of posts highlighting the very best of my short story reading. 3. ‘Love’ (‘Armor’) by Clarice Lispector translated by Katrina Dodson, from Clarice Lispector, Complete Stories published by Penguin Modern Classics. I’ve tried reading Clarice Lispector before, but I’ve never managed to relax into the beautiful strangeness of her sentences. Then, yesterday, I read her short story ‘Love’ translated by Katrina Dodson & I fell completely under her hypnotic spell. “Ana’s children were good, something true and succulent.” What a perfect and delicious sentence. ‘Love’ is, on the surface, a simple story: Ana, a housewife riding the tram home with her string bag of groceries, sees a blind man chewing gum, and this encounter somehow throws her into a crisis — The knit mesh [of her bag] was rough between her fingers, not intimate as when she had knit it. The mesh had lost its meaning and being on a tram was a snapped thread; she didn’t know what to do with the groceries on her lap. And like a strange song, the world started up …