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On being fiction-averse

One can become unable, in certain emotional states, to read fiction, and for me there is a similar ‘fiction-averse’ component to human experience, where things can seem so intensely real that you don’t want, or aren’t capable of, any distance from them at all. Having a baby seemed like one of those periods; getting divorced was another.

From Rachel Cusk in “Rachel Cusk on her quietly radical new novel, Outline” in Vogue by Megan O’Grady.

I’ve always been someone who lives very much in my head. The startling, terrifying (and sometimes exhilarating) thing about becoming a mother was that that vanished almost immediately. I couldn’t think in any sustained way anymore; my mind flitted from thing to thing, and the novel I’d been writing for years no longer made much sense to me. My purpose became quite simply to keep her alive. My body was either on high alert or utterly exhausted.

From Jenny Offill in an interview with Megan O’Grady in Vogue with “Scenes from a marriage: Jenny Offill on modern motherhood”.

Soon I began to realize that my posts were more interesting than my “official” journalism. They were more direct, asked deeper questions. Out poured visceral, accessible scenes and snippets of overheard speech laced with speculation and curiosity, and addressed, in my imagination, to people I knew. The audience was exactly the right muse.

The writer’s point of view regarding Facebook reflects that of many people in younger generations. The need for connectivity and semi-instantaneous feedback trumps any concerns about privacy, intellectual property rights, or targeted advertising.

Before Gutenberg made us a people of print, literature was developed in public performance just as much as it was in private, by a solitary writer slaving over a page. “Hearing rather than sight … dominated the older poetic world in significant ways,” Walter Ong, the scholar of literacy, has written. Homer and the classical Chinese poets refined their works in front of audiences. Even as we fell in love with print, much great writing was done at first as a kind of conversation between people, like the work fleshed out in Anais Nin’s letters to Henry Miller or the poet Rilke’s to the young Franz Kappus.

From Eve Fairbanks’ “My favourite writing tool: the Facebook status update” in the LA Times.

For ease of understanding, I use ‘divorced’ regularly to describe my status, though I was never married. But what other words do you use to convey a relationship you thought would be a lifetime and wasn’t? Until we had children, he and I lacked both the terminology and the ceremony to explain the significance of our relationship to others. Now, without marriage, the transition from inside to outside the relationship has similarly lacked terminology and ceremony, and is apparently so capricious as to require two witness statements to prove it. This is something I discovered recently when updating my tax information. By now, the presence of children is more a confounding variable.

The unstitching is frustrating at times. Even if I know which stitches to unpick for me, without the pattern of marriage and divorce others seem to have difficulty following. And when I turn the fabric over, I find the thread is bunching and looping in ways I hadn’t expected. (“Are you still going to call yourself a single parent if we move in together?”).

From “When will we start celebrating divorce?” in Daily Life.

The Melbourne Writers Festival has made more tickets available, so please come along and say hello to me if you happen to see me on the panel. I will not be talking about my breasts, instead I will speaking about Capital: Valuing What Matters with Dennis Glover and Ben Eltham.

Thomas Piketty’s unlikely international bestseller Capital questions the core of the capitalist system. In his new book, Dennis Glover argues that an economy is not a society. What do we put a dollar value on, what don’t we, and why? He and feminist economist Andie Fox discuss.

And speaking of media… I forgot to mention here that I was also on the parenting panel for ABC radio a fortnight ago.

“All your extended breastfeeding questions answered” in Essential Baby by me.

When my son began talking to my breasts (“breastfeedings” he called them, in case you were wondering), he was being so sincere and sad I did not know what to do. Should my breasts be answering him? It seems rude to remain indifferent to someone sharing the most tragic moment of their life with you. I mean, my breasts aren’t cold-hearted. And if my breasts answered him then should they have my voice, which may take you out of the moment? Or should they have a unique voice of their own – in which case, what does a breast’s voice sound like?

Immersion

If you get a chance to see this you really should…

The Strange Little Cat (2013). I loved it. And it was shown at the Queensland Film Festival this year.

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