A year in first lines | 2017

Hey, you, Yes, you. Do you feel like playing a game? This is an idea that started with The Indextrious Reader, and I first saw it on Beyond Eden Rock. “Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.” Here is what…

I’ll describe my insanity through a sudden insight

Dear Christine, Do you know that feeling we have when we know where a book was going, and we know it could have worked – but it simply didn’t? I feel that about your novel Incest (2017) translated by Tess Lewis (L’Incest, 1999). Trying to be experimental while never giving up control over what the experiment…

Christine Angot

Christine Angot (born 7 February 1959) is a French writer. She was brought up by her single-parent mother. She went to university in Rheims, specialising in English and Law, but dropped out after a year to pursue her writing career. Books In English Incest, 2017, tr. Tess Lewis, 160 p. Novels in French Vu du ciel (1990) Not to…

Oh we can afford very well to laugh at their ideas

Dear Jane, Ok, I confess: I’ve violated your correspondence, and I did it more than once. In my defence, though, I have to say that your letters read almost as if they were begging me to open them. Read me, you seem to be writing. I am here, too. Jane Carlyle: Newly Selected Letters (2004),…

Jane Welsh Carlyle

Jane Welsh Carlyle (née Jane Baillie Welsh, 14 January 1801 – 21 April 1866) was a Scottish letter writer. As a child, she was given private tuition at home, and later attended a school in Edinburgh. In 1826, she married the essayist Thomas Carlyle. From 1840 until her death in 1866, Jane had a long lasting relationship with fellow writer…

To show our scorn of pretending life’s a safe business

Dear Sylvia, Lolly Willowes (1926) is a satirical comedy of manners centred on an unmarried woman who suddenly decides to escape the claustrophobic domestic role her family tries to force on her. Funnily enough, the means she will use to fight against her family are no less morally equivocal than the life they were trying to…

Sylvia Townsend Warner

Sylvia Townsend Warner (6 December 1893 – 1 May 1978) was an English writer. She was home-schooled by her father. At the outbreak of World War I, she moved to London and worked in a munitions factory. During the rise of fascism, Warner campaigned on behalf of the Communist Party. She published novels, poetry, and short-stories. She was also a musicologist, and…

Virtue can sometimes be a little depressing

Dear Barbara, Excellent Women (1952) is a comedy of manners about a spinster surrounded by people who cannot see why she shouldn’t suffer for being single. She is perfectly fine, though – if anything, the married people in the book are the ones really struggling, or in pain. The narrator, Mildred Lathbury, is an unmarried…

Barbara Pym

Barbara Mary Crampton Pym (2 June 1913 – 11 January 1980) was an English writer. She studied at Queen’s Park School, in Oswestry, and attended Huyton College, near Liverpool. She then studied English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. During World War II, Pym served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. After the war, she worked at the International African Institute in London,…

Breaking through memories into desire

Dear Chris, In After Kathy Acker (2017), you are after a woman who was a professed self-mythologizer. Acker liked to play hide-and-seek, and buried herself in a room full of distorting mirrors. All you dispose of to find this woman is a collage of contradictory testimonials, and her own words. You can try to uncover…

Chris Kraus

Chris Kraus (1955) is an American writer and filmmaker. She has  a BA from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). After working as a journalist for five years, she moved to New York City in the late 1970s, and started performing and making films, video art and plays. Interviews Cultural Icons series.  Full Stop. 4 December 2012 Lenny Letter. 04 August 2017…

Hope is a wound

Dear Marianne, The Weight of Things (2015), translated by Adrian Nathan West (Die Schwerkraft der Verhältnisse, 1978) is this odd thing: something in-between a horror story, a domestic satire and an allegory of the insanity of war – a tale where the only character who does not lack in accountability and personal responsability is the…