Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Tiny Catastrophies

So my son is FIVE now and I'm a bit out of touch with what's going on in the world of the tinies. I went to see my friend Emma for her birthday this week and I realised just how much. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that she has been breastfeeding for TWO YEARS. She is very tired, and she has one child who is two and one who is six months.

She said to me that she thought that I'd somehow got it right what with working freelance, and living on my own and having only one child. Unfortunately, when it comes to being an adult, and having children, I don't think there is a right. I think there is an okay - this for me is when i am doing my work in the day, and not making my poor son entertain himself while I try to meet a deadline as he's having his breakfast.

Emma's talk about 'getting it right' made me think of Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook which I've been reading for the last month. The book's protagonist, Anna, has a lot to say about being a unmarried women raising a child. Despite being written in 1962, elements of it are a remarkably accurate portrayal of the way things are, and the way they feel for me at least, as someone with out a husband guiding my fate, or what have you.

Using the device of several different 'notebooks' which interweave to form the novel, Lessing looks at life from different angles. For me, one of the most interesting of these is the diary which charts her political life and her wrangling, in a hugely authentic way, with party politics and the constraints and limitations of being part of an organisation.

This part of it feels connected to my life too, as although I'm not joining a political party, I've just returned to the huge organisation that it The University Of Manchester to study for an MA, part time.

To be honest, having had a somewhat idealised vision of what this experience would be like, the reality is quite a shock. I'm not exactly conversant with either detailed research, or academic writing and the main thrust of the course involves trying to come up with an angle to look at an issue or practitioner (relating to, in my case, contemporary art / performance) and then write about it from that angle and hopefully, come to some academia-shaking conclusion as a result.

Like many people who dream of escaping real life in university, I had thought that it would be a breeze. That hours and hours in the library, in the company of Immanuel Kant or Jacque Derrida, Jacques Lacan, or any number of these other writers upon whom all the academics seem to base their work on, would be like, fun, and that I could just think about stuff I liked and that would be enough.

Of course, back in the real world, its not quite like that. You don't get funding for doodling about doing something that you just like. Studies need a purpose, and need to contribute to the wider body of knowledge out there in good way. YEP. Unfortunately, I'm just not quite sure what i can bring to the table.

In the meantime, here is an interesting quote I found, which sums up domestic (and of course academic) life rather succinctly... Its written by the German editor, cultural critic, and writer, Siegfried Kracauer;

'One must rid one's self of the delusion that it is the major events which have the most decisive influence on people.' he says. 'They are much more deeply and continuously influenced by the tiny catastrophies which make up daily life.'


Jem said...

Hi Ruth,

Now that your son is 5/6 perhaps you have a little more free time? I run a fledgling UK blog and website offering savings in every city around the UK, and we're looking for guest bloggers in Manchester.

Would you perhaps be able to get in touch so that we could discuss possible collaborations?


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