Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

This review was first published on The Spinoff on 17 December 2018.

New York. Late 2000. Our narrator is 27. She is thin, pretty, tall, blond. White. She works at a Chelsea art gallery, her first job after graduating from Columbia (art history major), though working is optional – she could live entirely off the inheritance from her dead parents, if she chose. That inheritance pays for her Upper East Side apartment and whatever she wants, which is sometimes designer clothes, but mostly second-hand video tapes of Whoopi Goldberg movies. She tries hard not to call her douchebag ex-boyfriend, Trevor, but often fails.

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Three recent book chapters

I’ve been fortunate to have my writing included in three recent books that I want to share. These books all came out in 2018, concern matters very close to my heart (parenting, feminism, mental health) and feature some incredible writers. I’m honoured to be included in each of them, and I hope you’ll check them out. They’d all make great Christmas presents!

Is it Bedtime Yet?

Is it Bedtime Yet?

Is it Bedtime Yet? Parenting… the hilarious, the hair-raising, the heart-breaking is an anthology of deeply relatable parenting essays from a range of diverse perspectives, edited by the fabulous Emily Writes (with whom I used to host a podcast). Many of the pieces were first published on The Spinoff’s parenting page, which is where my contribution first appeared. These pieces are so real, reassuring, funny and moving. They’re just what every parent needs when they’re in the thick of it.

Women Now

Women Now: The Legacy of Female Suffrage

Women Now: The Legacy of Female Suffrage is a Te Papa Press publication to mark 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. 12 writers were asked by editor Bronwyn Labrum to respond to an item in the national museum’s collection that related somehow to women or feminism. Mine was a badge saying “Women can do Anything.” I wrote about the birth of my second daughter Ngaire and how my own conviction that I could do anything (everything?) was challenged by motherhood.

The other brilliant writers included are Sue Bradford, Barbara Brookes, Sandra Coney, Golriz Ghahraman, Morgan Godfery, Dame Fiona Kidman, Charlotte MacDonald, Tina Makereti, Ben Schrader, Grace Taylor, and Megan Whelan.

Headlands

Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety

Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety is published by VUP and edited by Naomi Arnold. It features essays by people from all walks of life: poets, novelists, and journalists, musicians, social workers, and health professionals, and aims to tell the real, messy story  ­– what anxiety feels like, what causes it, what helps and what doesn’t. I wrote about my grandmother, Lucy’s experience becoming a mother in the 1950s, and set it alongside my own, describing how my anxiety manifests. An extract from my essay was also published by Fairfax online and in several newspapers.

The other writers in the collection are Danyl McLaughlan, Rebecca Priestley, Sarah Lin Wilson, Zion Tauamiti, Paul Stanley Ward, Aimie Cronin, Michelle Langstone, Kirsten McDougall, Anthony Byrt, Eamonn Marra, Riki Gooch, Donna McLeod, Hinemoana Baker, Bonnie Etherington, Kate Kennedy, Madeline Reid, Kerry Sunderland, Rosemary Mannering, Susan Strongman, Paula Harris, Lee Murray, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Jess McAllen, Allan Drew, Yvette Walker, D.A. Glynn, Meredith Blampied and Julia Rucklidge, Ashleigh Young, Mikey Dam and Tusiata Avia.

 

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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“Having it all” – my speech at the launch of The Whole Intimate Mess

On 22 June 2017 my publishers at Bridget Williams Books put on a delightful launch event for my book The Whole Intimate Mess at Vic Books Pipitea. The incomparable Emily Writes was the guest speaker. Emily spoke beautifully – you can see what she said here. And below is a rough approximation of what I said. It was wonderful to be so supported by family, friends, colleagues and readers. Thank you to everyone who came, and all those who bought a copy.

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Photo: Dave Crampton

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Press coverage of The Whole Intimate Mess

My book The Whole Intimate Mess: Motherhood, Politics, and Women’s Writing was published by Bridget Williams Books in June 2017. You can find out more and order it here.

I’ve been fortunate to have had wide and generous press coverage of the book, and I’ve collected some of that here. I’m pleased that it has prompted some interesting conversations about women, work, parenthood and mental health.

The Whole Intimate Mess – Holly Walker‘, Up Again with James Dann, Interview on RDU FM, 28 July 2017.

Unacceptable Choices‘, Review by Alison McCulloch, Scoop Review of Books, 14 July 2017.

I am ok, and thanks for asking!‘, Interview with Susan Strongman, The Wireless, 6 July 2017.

Torn in two: Former Green MP Holly Walker discusses trading Parliament for motherhood‘, Michelle Duff, Sunday magazine, 2 July 2017.

A Private Face‘, Sunday TVNZ, 25 June 2017.

Holly Walker: The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Simon Sweetman, Off the Tracks, 21 June 2017.

Holly Walker – The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Interview with Kim Hill on RNZ, 17 June 2017.

Holly Walker – The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Interview with Ryan Bradley on Radio Live, 17 June 2017.

You can’t always get everything you want: Deborah Coddington reviews Holly Walker‘, Deborah Coddingham, The Spinoff, 15 June 2017.

A brief history of feminist literature in New Zealand: Tessa Duder on her classic novel Alex‘, Tessa Duder, The Spinoff, 14 June 2017.

Holly Walker and the books her kid is reading‘, The Sapling, 14 June 2017.

‘I really admire that you have been open about mental health as a candidate’: Chlöe Swarbrick in conversation with Holly Walker‘, Chlöe Swarbrick and Holly Walker, The Spinoff, 13 June 2017.

‘There is nothing normal about crawling up the hallway, screaming and hitting yourself in the head’: former Green MP Holly Walker shares her story‘, Holly Walker, The Spinoff, 12 June 2017.

Dear Mamas Episode 9 Transcript: Anxiety

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. As of this episode, we are very excited to be part of The Spinoff family of podcasts, and we have a sponsor – Little Big Crate, delivering gorgeous threads for your little big person, right to your front door. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on The Spinoff Parents. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen. Huge thanks to Mary Cronin for this transcript.

In this episode we discuss our experiences with anxiety, plus Emily has a best-selling book and a whole lot of speaking engagements, and Holly has some big news.

We mention Holly’s essay about anxiety, You Never Regret a Swim and our friend Leah McFall’s column in Sunday magazine. Emily has written often about mental health, most notably this post.

If you think you or someone else might be experiencing anxiety or depression, check out the resources at Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa, or take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. And don’t be like us and wait to ask for help!

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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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