I have an abiding curiosity about how others live through this.
Those who chose interesting above all else.
Writing that works things out in real time.
Writing that does not depend on others to think things through first.
And to absorb the risk.
Writing out of not-understanding.
Like Mary Gaitskill talking recently about her early characters:
This person doesn’t know anything about human society.
I wonder if she still thinks this about her recent work. I hope so.
This book, Arms and Legs, does this. Shows previously undescribed subjects.
I think of it with The Swimmers, and it is like a before and after shot of the disaster of parenthood.
Only two years but an ocean apart.
Because parenthood is a migration.
With all the attendant grief and trauma.
Separated from a place we can never return to by that river that cannot be crossed twice.
Motherhood is not a fashionable subject or subjectivity.
Conflicted motherhood, especially.
And certainly, by conventional thinking, failing motherhood.
The expectation to be invisible, compliant, endlessly supportive and self-sacrificing.
Not supposed to have desires, needs, confusion.
And if so, looking like a pariah, best off at the edge of town.
When I took up swimming olympic pool lengths, my son was yet to start school.
Another mother-swimmer said, pausing artistically, at the end of her lane:
“It’s like the accident never happened.”
Joanna Margaret Paul did a drawing of her small daughter.
And wrote in small letters at the bottom.
Her name and “beautiful destroyer of days.”
Many of us are puzzling over the nuclear family.
The strange given.
Heterodoxy has it that PiV sex with a singular other of the opposite sex is the goal.
It is in books I have seen the post-nuclear family described.
Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip demonstrates a collective model that is incisive.
In Chloe Lane’s Arms and Legs, looking at a devolution of the nuclear family from inside it.
What do we do in close personal space with others?
Do we have the communication, intimacy, nurture and capacity for brutality for it to work?
A distance relationship is something that two people make up.
Recently, a couple I know announced to their teenagers that they have taken a family friend as their boyfriend.
Open relationships and polyamory are on the table.
And no one knows how it works.
Is it having sex with more than one person, an open relationship around a couple?
Or is it the ability to love more than one person at a time outside the couple model?
I am thinking of the image of the fires in this book.
And how we change things/us to work things out, sometimes with violence.
The burning fires of our own plasticity.
Florida Man has become a trope.
What does Florida Woman do?
In the tropics, emotions and concepts do not register in the same way.
Arms and Legs captures this diffusion, a kind of thriller.
What happens, when a woman, a mother of a young stranger, kicks a hole in a wall.
And does not lie about it, and does not force an outcome.