Review: The Baby by Marie Darrieusscq

This review first appeared on The Spinoff on 9 April 2019

Before the current bumper crop of radically honest books about motherhood, there was Marie Darrieussecq. Eighteen years ago in Paris, she sat at her desk, notebook open, her baby resting face down on her lap. She let him suckle on the fingers of her left hand; in this position she could hold a pen in her right hand.

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Fixin’ to Write: Stolen Moments

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my sixth post for the blog, a slice of my beautiful, terrifying, sleep-deprived life with a baby and a big girl.

I am deep into the trenches right now. The baby is eight months old, the big girl four-and-a-half. It’s winter. I don’t leave the house much. I don’t get much sleep. There is no time for reflection, considered thought, planning my writing life. But I am writing. 250 words a day. Whatever comes out. It doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t add up to anything. Not yet anyway. But here’s some from last week.

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Fixin’ to Write: So What Am I?

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my fifth post for the blog, a little meditation on who the “I” is in my writing, something I’ve been trying to figure out lately. It was first published on 19 April 2018.

Illustration of a mountain peak with the words "so what am I?" above it

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

We used to chant this to each other at primary school, whenever someone called us a rude name.

You’re stupid!

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

A stupid dick!

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

Shut up, you’re a mean, stupid dick!

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

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Feature: A Bare Necessity

As time passed, Walker started to enjoy her enforced stillness – a novelty for a parent of two small children.
Robert Kitchen/Fairfax NZ

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was to pose nude for a life drawing class and write about it. The resulting feature was published online and in Your Weekend magazine on 24 March 2018. Excerpt below and you can read it here.

 

It was a painting by Jacqueline Fahey that finally inspired me to take all my clothes off in a room full of strangers.

Her work Final Domestic Exposé: I Paint Myself depicts the artist nude (body looking much like mine does these days), surrounded by the detritus of her life as an artist and mother – dirty clothes, children, food, gin bottles, medications, paint brushes. I loved it on sight, and I took it as a challenge. If I really thought of my body as beautiful, then why not offer it to artists?

Let them make art from the body of another mother in the middle of the chaos.

Fixin’ to Write: An experiment in “found” writing

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my fourth post for the blog, an experiment in “found writing” inspired by Catherine Chidgey’s The Beat of the Pendulum. It was first published on 22 February 2018.

Due to a recent tweak in my insomniac four-year-old’s bedtime routine, I now spend hours each night sitting outside her room waiting for her to fall asleep while answering the questions that run through her head while she winds down: “Mum, what’s a fawn?” “How do you spell poison?”

It’s painful, but at least it affords me some reading time, and as a consequence I’m churning through the books at the moment. One of the latest is The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey.

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Fixin’ to Write: Getting Naked

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my third post for the blog, about my New Year’s resolution to pose nude. It was first published on 28 December 2017.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but in 2018 I would really like to take my clothes off in front of a room full of strangers.

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Fixin’ to Write: On writing with a newborn

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my second post for the blog, about writing with a newborn baby. It was first published on 16 November 2017.

I didn’t keep a journal when my first daughter was born four years ago. For the first week, my partner and I kept a notebook recording details of feeds, nappy changes, and the odd piece of commentary: “Day 3: a no good, terrible, horrible, very bad day”; “Day 5: first parental fight, re dates.” Dates the dried fruit, or dates on a calendar? Four years later, I have no idea, and the notebook is no help. Soon after it stops altogether.

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Fixin’ to Write: A writer’s work is never done

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my first post for the blog, about the experience of actually finishing a book, and what happens next. It was first published on 24 August 2017.

My first book came out two months ago.

I’d always imagined I would write a book one day, but in that way you do when you’re not actually writing. As long as I wasn’t trying, I could cling to the fantasy that at some unspecified future date, when the stars and planets aligned, I would sit down and bust out the Great New Zealand Novel.

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A whole good day: When parenting finally feels like you thought it would

This essay was originally published on The Spinoff on 29 November 2016.

On the day my daughter turned three, a man gave me a chopping board. It was a lovely chopping board, made from caramel-coloured blocks of recycled rimu that had been glued together and clamped in a vice. The man had made it himself. He brought it over to my house in the afternoon, along with a miniature Pinky bar for my daughter, Esther.

I met this man about five years ago, when I was first running for Parliament. He was the chair of the local peace group, and hosted a debate for the candidates. Later he became a dedicated campaign volunteer. He was kind and generous, and donated several of his chopping boards to fundraising auctions. After I left Parliament, earlier than I had planned, he asked if he could gift me one as a token of support and appreciation. It took me almost three years to follow up and accept his offer.

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The Mervyn Thompson Affair: What a 32 year old controversy can tell us about the Chiefs scandal

First published on The Spinoff on 15 September 2016, part of its week-long coverage of the Mervyn Thompson Affair – the strange, powerful 1984 incident when six women abducted an Auckland university lecturer, chained him to a tree in Western Springs, and labelled him a rapist.

I think the six women who abducted Mervyn Thompson had a grand plan. As well as enacting vigilante justice on him for his alleged crime, I think they hoped to shock the country out of complacency about rape and sexism, and force a culture change. In light of a police and court system that responded inadequately to victims of sexual violence, and deeply ingrained sexism in New Zealand society, perhaps they convinced themselves that violence was the only rational response.

Thompson became a symbol, chosen because of his high-profile and respected status as a playwright and lecturer, to stand in for all men – or at least all rapists. It was a brutal invitation to see things from a victim’s perspective: men, imagine if this happened to you. It’s how many women feel, all the time.

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