“I’m fed up with the fact that it’s not okay to bad-mouth your own baby or walk around firing a gun.”
I know, right? As somebody of other said human beings are born free, but everywhere they are in chains. Chains of different types – social, religious, national etc. In this case, they are of family. The chains of expectations as to how mother should talk, behave, feel. I mean we all know that everyone can not be a cook, but we do always expect everyone to be a good parent. Specially mothers.
If you think about it, all freedoms boil down to just one freedom – the freedom to be oneself. And being a parent (again, specially mothers in a traditional patriarchal families) must take a heavy toll on one’s freedom – for you are no longer doing what you want to do, but are struck looking after those stupid, smelling, needy little creatures that won’t even thank you for the trouble (okay, why are people bothered with those children, again?) The protagonist of this somewhat autobiographical novel is a woman passionate about literature – in fact, so passionate, that literature is only thing that is beautiful to her – literature and sex (okay that is true for me too ); and she doesn’t get much of either struck in her present roles of mother, wife and daughter-in-law.
But one’s family stands by one in times of need. But what if they are not good at it?
“I can’t remember having done anything in particular to reveal how desperate I was feeling. For some time I’d been containing everything, or so I thought, in a swaying motion that was subtle though intensifying, when, suddenly, I was offered a seat and something cool to drink. Since when did sitting down and having some water get rid of the desire to die? Thanks, Grandma. I’m fine though. But they sat me down and brought me the glass of cool water anyway. These people are going to make me lose it. I wish I had Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon for neighbours; then my son could grow up and develop intellectually by learning that there’s more to the world I brought him into than opening old skylights you can’t see out of anyway.”
“I know that when he slides open the door I’ll turn into a black swan, and when he starts shouting I’ll be a castrated duck. Okay, I’m going in. I’ll stop trying to draw blood from a stone. I’ll contain my madness, I’ll use the bathroom. I’ll put my baby to sleep, jerk off my man and postpone my rebellion in favour of a better life. Me, a woman who didn’t want to register her son. Who wanted a son with no record, no identity. A stateless son, with no date of birth or last name or social status. A wandering son. A son born not in a delivery room but in the darkest corner of the woods. A son who’s not silenced with dummies but rocked to sleep by animal cries. What saves me tonight, and every other night, has nothing to do with my husband’s love or my son’s. What saves me is the stag’s golden eye, still staring at me.”
I love it when prose mirrors the feelings of narrator with such intensity – and in my reading, the women authors seem to do it more frequently (Woolf, Plath, Lispector and now this one).