Not only the subject matter - babies, parenthood – but Rivka Galchen's short, sometimes one-sentence chapters in Little Labours, are likely to appeal very much to the no-sleep addled brain of a new mother.
The book is a memoir of sorts, a record, a miscellany, of Galchen's early experiences in that brave new world. Her anecdotal observations feel mined from your own head, albeit defter, funnier and more eloquent. She notes, early on, how little she was interested in reading or writing about anything pertaining to the subject but how now, everything seems related and significant. 'The world seemed ludicrously, suspiciously, adverbially sodden with meaning.' This too, resonates.
The personal sits alongside lists of mother-writers, notes about babies in art, babies in literature, Godzilla, and quite a lot about another of Galchen's preoccupations: a couple of texts from the Heian period in Japanese history. It feels on first read, or at least to this reader, that more would be gleaned from those last entries if only you knew more about the books in question. Then again, it also feels apt. There's a sort of half-skimmed, half-understood quality to those first days/months/years of child rearing, like everything would make a lot more sense, if only you knew more. In parenthood overtime meaning reveals itself, it doesn't, or you realise you knew just enough. With Little Labours, you eventually read around the subject (may we recommend Lucy Ives review for the Los Angeles Review of Books) and acknowledge the quietly radical thought that simmers throughout. A book to read and re-read for mothers and non-mothers alike.
Having worked your way through the twenty one Studio Ghibli films available on Netflix, you may be after your next whimsical anime fix. We wrote about Mirai this time last year and it seems that May is again the month for writer/director Mamoru Hosoda. This time it's Wolf Children.
The story begins when quiet, warm-hearted Hana falls for an enigmatic co-student in one of her university classes. Undeterred by the revelation that her new lover is actually half-man, half-wolf, Hana becomes pregnant and the couple commence a simple, charm-filled life together. On the night of their second child's birth, the wolf-man heeds the call to hunt for his growing family and oh! of course: tragedy strikes.
So begins the second and enduringly powerful love story: that of the now-single mum Hana for her two small children. Life is hard in the city: their apartment is small, the baby won't eat, the toddler is uncontainable. So far, so London family life. But add the father-inherited wolfliness into the mix and Hana is in for one heck of a parenting-ride. Determined to give her children everything they need, Hana moves her little wolf pack out into the mountains and there proves her love and resilience time and again.
Beautiful, tender, calm – a balm to any harried mother. The moments of pure joy (the snow scene with heart-catching score by Masakatsu Takagi a particular delight) far outweigh the moments of struggle. Listen out for The Mother's Song (again by Takagi) and read the subtitles: it might have you weeping.
There's a photo that sits on a shelf in my kitchen that fills my heart every time I see it. It's not a particularly well-framed one, slightly blurry, and I'm not even sure why it got printed but I'm so glad that it did. It's of my youngest fast asleep in a hotel bed, white sheets, early morning light, gloriously overfull, untouched breakfast tray beside her.
I have other photos like that: the top of her head, strapped to my chest in a baby carrier, on a 4am walk around Florence when she and I were both so ill that neither of us could sleep and the streets were all ours, save for the street cleaners. The shape of my eldest curled up under a scratchy blanket on an improvised bed in a woefully small hotel room. A snap of a pile of swimming paraphernalia on the train platform at London Fields on a hot day last summer when we decided that the only thing for it was to hit up as many outdoor swimming spots as we could get to in one day.
In lieu of being able to make all the (outside) memories that we want to right now, we've been sorting through our photos: falling into reveries; marking those to be printed; compiling albums; remembering lost loves; making lists of the places visited once and will again once the world opens back up. We love the posed shots and the magnificent landscapes but it's the snapshot, in-between moments that have been igniting our hearts.
It's a love-filled, hopeful project made for these long, interminable days. Join us?