170. READ.LOOK.THINK.

Writing before you’re ready can cause damage, Simone de Beauvoir was ‘a clock in a refrigerator,’ emergency brownies, bootlicking, "I’ll take it, if you give it to me."

“I’m building my own little museum,” says Lanari of her maximalist, object-filled home. The living-room door was decorated by the stylist Maude Smith in the painterly style of Charleston, the country retreat of the Bloomsbury Group in Sussex, England.”


READ.

It might be easy to look at Kinfolk and simultaneously crave, distrust, and resent the perfect lives it seems to evoke. It’s the same envious resentment we bring to Facebook pages and Instagram feeds, the triple punch of projection, aspiration, and repulsion we often fling at lives that appear more ideal than our own. But in truth, its pages don’t testify to perfection so much as its impossibility: how every “ideal” life is actually a constructed fantasy cast across the troubled fissures of reality, in ways that are more vexed and contradictory than we imagined—and in this human trouble, also more full of grace.

“...it’s a peculiar property of [Agatha] Christie’s work, speaking as someone who has reread several of the books multiple times, that you quite often forget, until you’re a significant way in, that you’ve read the book before; and even after that, you quite often forget whodunnit.”

“...how narrative is control, dominance, purposeful withholding, flirting, and, as is often said, can replicate a very normative route to climax”

“...writing before you’re ready can cause damage. The difficulty can eat away at your confidence, and the self-imposed pressure and potential dissatisfaction with the work you create during a period of trauma can be hard to shake.”

“A week later, after an unsatisfactory phone call, she realised that there was a problem: ‘I guess we’ll never hear from you. I’m not even sure that you are still planning for us to come to England.’”

You’re simply not allowed to utter certain things, even if they’re true. But censorship doesn’t mean that everyone stops thinking. It just means they become very cynical, very careful whom they speak to candidly. And I find this weirdly hopeful. It’s hard to sustain a totalitarian system because, at a certain point, the disconnect between what people are saying officially and what they’re thinking privately becomes so huge that the whole thing just becomes silly and falls apart.

“Doubtless, trivia and mediocrity will find their own level again, in novel-writing as in everything else…”

Simone de Beauvoir, ‘a clock in a refrigerator’.

Beauvoir wrote in her memoir that she agreed with [Sartre’s] wilting assessment: The story, she wrote, “seemed to have no inner necessity and failed to hold the reader’s interest.” (It’s now being published.)

“I heard a faint moan which was repeated more loudly; the moan turned into my own name – an inarticulate appeal for assistance from someone helpless and in severe pain. Going into the hall, I saw Khan, lying full length and motionless on the ground. In agony he whispered: ‘My wife has kicked me in the balls.’”

“It’s a lovely word, ‘butch’: I’ll take it, if you give it to me.”

Do you remember reading this in 2015 about what being a single parent is really like? I can't wait to read Sophie Heawood’s book. And Americans, have you read Emily Gould’s new novel yet, Perfect Tunes? It’s a real reading drought-breaker if you’re stuck. ( Emily’s Grub Street Diet.) It doesn’t come out in the UK until summer, which is a tragedy.

I’m listening to three books on audio: Square Haunting (brilliant), an Australian politics book Party Animals (have to dole it out slowly, gasping in horror) and former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir, The Bigger Picture. All very alien to my experience but very much my bag as I obsessively ruminate on the five years between 2007 and 2013 when Australia experienced countless sliding doors moments on the journey to catastrophic climate change. (One weird thing I always noticed about Malcolm Turnbull was that people, young men, continually spammed his instagram with sycophantic comments calling him “sir.” Especially bizarre in an Australian context where we call Prime Ministers by first name only. Through the prism of contemporary British politics, this piece satisfyingly dissects the phenomenon of bootlicking.)


LOOK.

Emergency brownies (and Nigella at age 23) | Garden focaccia. | Lovely long Helen Garner interview. | Helena Bonham Carter, an old pic.

“London is in lockdown. The city is empty. But the skies fill with birdsong and the sounds of solidarity….”

Eloise Rickman (whose Instagram @mightymother_ I love) has a perfectly-timed book coming out about homeschooling. Hard to say why I love her account so much when the past few weeks have shown me I would prefer death than to homeschool — I think because she's empathetic and political and has great taste?

How to look good on video chat according to Tom Ford. (Zoom fatigue. / “At one point, I almost did the ‘America’s Next Top Model’ trick where you put a binder clip on the back of your top to make it more well fitting, but I was afraid that I would turn around and he would see.” Naomi Fry on Zoom.)

Kettle’s Yard webcam. | I've always, always wondered about childhood photos in movies and TV! | A writing shed that rotates to catch the light. | How to bake with olive oil.

"Our jars of chile, constantly replenished, are symbols of our sanity and, hopefully, of normalcy soon to return.” Ottoleghi's test kitchen, run remotely. You have to follow the star of his test kitchen on IG @ixta.belfrage (look at her biang biang noodles.)


THINK.

Yes this section has some coronavirus stuff, but all the pieces take the scariness of it as read and don’t add to it, only seek to understand.

If you have anxiety and depression but feel better during coronavirus, you’re not alone

It’s harder to come to grips with the fact that we’re living in a long-term crisis that will not end in our lifetimes. But it’s meaningful to notice that, all together, we are capable of learning to extend our care further along the time horizon. Amid the tragedy and death, this is one source of pleasure. Even though our economic system ignores reality, we can act when we have to. At the very least, we are all freaking out together. To my mind, this new sense of solidarity is one of the few reassuring things to have happened in this century. If we can find it in this crisis, to save ourselves, then maybe we can find it in the big crisis, to save our children and theirs.

“I refuse to believe in my mortality, or the statistics which hedge the modern world about, like the briar that walled in the sleeping princess,” [Derek Jarman] writes. “I have conducted my whole life without fitting in, so why should I panic now and fit into statistics?” Elsewhere, though, there are tears.

“An organizing principle of my life has been that this isn’t the real me. The real me is the better, smarter, kinder version of myself that I’m trying to become. Usually, I chase her like a hologram just beyond my reach. Here in isolation, the hologram has vanished.”

The content of the disagreement versus the process (the emotional meaning of the conflict).

Moved by teens writing about the impact of the virus: “Worse than the lasts, however, was the realisation that a lot of lasts had already passed. I would have no more lessons in the place that had held me for seven years. My last day of school had been and gone without a blink.” / “before isolation, my mam worked full time and i would be at school till all hours. we were ‘like two ships in the night’, she used to say. i picture us now as two little rubber dinghies tied together and bobbing along.”

It is possible to feel loved, safe and cared for, and, at the same time, to experience a lockdown of the mind.

“Everybody is feeling the same thing,” wrote Virginia Woolf of Londoners in the second world war, “therefore nobody is feeling anything.”

“This is how science actually works. It’s less the parade of decisive blockbuster discoveries that the press often portrays, and more a slow, erratic stumble toward ever less uncertainty.”

“...I remembered Rosa Luxemburg who once said that in order to endure the prison conditions, she woke up earlier than the stand up count and imposed a stricter discipline on herself than the prison rules in order to feel like she was running the show."

“... escape is not one-sided. You can’t just escape from. Only some of us have something to escape to.” Sean Kelly's Quarantine Journal.

Imagination is the most powerful tool that feminists have at our disposal.

The progressive agenda isn’t just a mobilization agenda; it can be a persuasion agenda.

"... Australia is already suffering damage from climate change colossally in excess of anything China could do to Australia (short of nuclear war), or would wish to do." Why global warming needs national solutions.

"Instead, we have become like passengers in a boat, floating on a once gentle stream that has turned into a stronger river, long aware of a distant thrumming gradually getting louder – until, all at once we have swept around a corner and been tossed into rapids, oars useless, some people shouting, others still enjoying the view, and no one at all clear what lies beyond the next bend." The Climate Interviews in The Monthly.


Follow me on IG @dailydoseofjess and Twitter @dailydoseofjess. If you’ve been forwarded this email and want to sign up, click the lilac button: