168. READ.LOOK.THINK.

Shame, a G-chat affair, “you’re having the wrong feelings,” the home of the last Mitford, Himpathy, cabbage, and ill-advised parenting tips from me which I will probably delete.

Sara Shakeel collage, original image by @blondebundle, via @realmikkipedia.

[…]By the time the apocalypse began, the world had already

ended. It ended every day for a century or two. It ended, and another ending

world spun in its place.

The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On by Franny Choi

Dear friends,

Thank you to everyone who shared my hastily cobbled together list of best novels to read for comfort. (Ana also wrote a really great list.)

You don’t need a paragraph from me about these difficult times. You need some links. And here they are.

READ.

"How, then, to explain why, at the exact same moment when first-person art by women is more culturally ascendant and embraced than it has ever been in my lifetime, the most rapacious, damaging forms of structural sexism are also on the rise?" Emily Gould on shame.

“It was fun and interesting to work with a male character. I would maybe experience a feeling of uncertainty if I had to write a novel from the point of view of a spider, as I don’t have a clear idea of what is in a spider’s mind. But I have always had to listen to men talk about themselves, so I kind of felt I had some clues as to their inner monologues.” Virginie Despentes.

“I developed a system where I immediately followed up every bum picture with one of my face, so I could scroll back up our feed and feel multifaceted, but face pictures seemed to frighten Ralph. He started calling himself “tired boy” and talking less specifically about me, more about the news and the cruelty of man to man.”

“The nightmare logic that informs modernism—the feeling that cause and effect have been reversed or do not matter—is also the logic of mental breakdown. It is all about rupture and repetition, not progression, growth, and change.”

“I reread that draft and realized that I’d used the word “luxury” 14 times. I was struck by my blind repetition of this particular noun. Is it possible to acknowledge one’s privilege while simultaneously reimagining the lexicon?”

"When grappling with sexual misconduct, our embattled society tends to turn one party into a monster too difficult to imagine and the other into a victim so damaged that no future seems possible. This [...] has serious formal as well as narrative failings".

... that old voice saying “you’re overreacting”, which is another way to say “you’re having the wrong feelings”, which really means “your feelings are inconvenient for others, so strangle them at birth.”

INTERVIEWER

I want to step back a moment. What was it like, reading those reviews of Saving Agnes?

CUSK

I was sent them in an envelope. There were photocopies of the reviews in every single paper, and I sat on the step in my parents’ garden, and it was like therapy. It was an amazing, healing experience of reflection.

INTERVIEWER

Your self was being reflected back to you?

CUSK

Yes. And only in writing did that ever happen to me. Nowhere else in my life did that happen.

"One identified with Jo in her sections, with Amy in hers, and so forth: an early lesson in subjectivity. No single perspective holds the entire truth; everyone, in the end, is deserving of empathy." On female trios, which illuminate a culture’s "traps and hypocrisies."

Time crawled. Amber-colored urine slowly collected in the bag attached to my father’s catheter. The room was sweltering.

“Was that dinner O.K., Dad?” Lisa asked.

He raised a thumb. “Excellent.”

David Sedaris.

Is it possible to feel creatively connected without social media?

LOOK.

Inside the home of the last Mitford.

A photographer's parents wave farewell.

I have watched the new Christine and the Queens video many times. Here is a brief look at the choreography. (“So all my reflexes of being pretty and moving in the right way — it’s not the right way.”) “It’s weird because I always felt lonely,” she says with a shrug, “so in a way when the loneliness of fame arrived it was a bit sad but I was ready.”

Fall-apart caramelised cabbage.

“I have done softness before, though, along with evocation and a lack of vital details, several times – for Roman meatballs, poached meatballs and winter meatballs – each time genuine, if a bit weary and disingenuous.” Beautiful writing in this Rachel Roddy recipe for chicken meatballs in white wine sauce.

THINK.

HIMPATHY. Once you know the word, you see it everywhere.

"Every person I talked to was now two people, the one who was nice to me because I was thin, and the person who had been mean to me when I was fat." On the diet industrial complex.

“… a zero-sum world—a physics in which the achievements of one person are insulting to everyone else.”

"...not giving in to anxiety, but transforming the feeling of loss and aloneness into the ability to work."

"It feels distinctly modern and unprecedented that we find ourselves in this obliterative debate, where one side can’t prevail until the other is destroyed, where all the values of the movement are parked so we can fight over issues that are so technical that there is no room for compromise, yet also so abstract that there is no space for human beings." Feminist solidarity empowers everyone. The movement must be trans-inclusive.

“…most people complain about the ordinary until they no longer have it. Then, when it’s disrupted, they desperately want it back—but don’t realize that what they took for granted is still right there in front of them.” A therapist’s guide to emotional health in a pandemic.

“The regulatory responses to the crisis of Covid-19 remind us that there are many ways in which individuals, communities, law-makers and states may respond to a crisis, and that policy-making can be driven by something other than appeals to self-interest. Ideals of intergenerational equity, the collective good and making sacrifices to protect the vulnerable have reappeared in political discourse. Perhaps, once the Covid-19 pandemic is finally over, governments may be ready to bring that wisdom to bear on the crisis of climate change.”

CHILD STUFF.

This is not relevant to everyone, but some resources for parents who are isolated with their children and trying to keep a sense of calm, normalcy and a modicum of personal space during that time:

A good way to explain the virus to children.

Lots of TV and movie reccs in the comments of Erin Boyle’s instagram. My children like Octonauts, GoJetters, True and the Rainbow Kingdom, Rainbow Ruby, Paw Patrol, PJ Masks, Storybots, all the Julia Donaldsons, and (I don’t approve of these but they are quiet during them) Teen Titans and Boss Baby the TV show.

These are the best drawing materials for children of any age: Stabilo Woody.

The toy most likely to give you some peace: Magnatiles, or this cheaper version.

Everyone has said Cosmic Kids Yoga is amazing.

A dumb idea I have had that probably won’t survive its first contact with reality (and that I feel embarrassed to share): I’ve bought the girls nice bound sketchbooks and will be encouraging them to make a diary of these times. It acknowledges that these times are strange, historic. It also makes it clear that there will be a future time, when we look back on these times.

I don’t normally share my personal parenting tips (except in DMs! where I go off) but as this is an emergency, I’m happy to be more forthcoming in case I can help someone. I have two rules, one that my children know and one they don’t. The first is: Mummy doesn’t play. I just don’t, and I’ve always made this clear. I never get on the floor or dress up or be any character. (Except a monster, but that is for chasing, which is roughhousing, a spontaneous show of affection, which I love, not playing, which I find boring.) And the second rule, a private one, is Teaching is for teachers. I have modelled behaviour for children obviously, like tried to be better than my usual self around them. If they show me some writing, I ask them about it and say it’s amazing. But I don’t do, like, phonics. Teachers literally go to university for this! Why would you attempt to teach, ham-fistedly, and inevitably hurt your child’s feelings in the process? Obviously I read to them and give them art materials. But unless you love it, relieve yourself of playing and teaching during this time. That’s my opinion!

If you want a calm but focused midpoint between my approach (criminal laxity) and “trying to recreate school at home,” you could follow Eloise Rickman @mightymother_. She has already written about this on her blog.

Sending love,

Your internet friend Jess

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