For your stray attention this weekend
Mourning, mothering and moons. Plus, snow leopard cubs
Briefly: Amsterdam’s Poet Laureate Marjolijn van Heemstra talking about stargazing on How We Live Now | Members can watch the replay of my wonderful hangout with Carissa Potter Carlson here | Edinburgh Festival appearances on 15th August with Sam Baker and 16th August with Kerri ní Dochartaigh | Last minute extra live date! I’ll be at the Wilderness Festival on Sunday 6th August, 12.15pm, Phlox Books tent.
I first sat down to write this newsletter on Thursday morning, and I thought I’d add a little paragraph about Sinéad O’Connor. That became a second paragraph, and then another, and then I realised that I was writing something to post on that day, as soon as I possibly could, because it felt so urgent. I didn’t even realise I had that much to say.
I’d read a few obituaries that morning, and in so many of them, the condescension was palpable. There was subtle mockery of her conversation to Islam; writing in The Times, Will Hodgkinson called her “strong-willed”, “damaged” and “impetuous”, the holy trinity of words bestowed on rebellious women. I begin to wonder about the entire journalistic culture of interviewing a person for a couple of hours and then writing something that judges their entire character, their very soul. In a quote in the same obituary, Sinéad has very astute things to say about this:
“I didn’t like sitting in a hotel room in Amsterdam like a hooker, spilling my soul to 10 journalists in a row… Then somebody, somewhere, is annoyed at something you said - friends, family, strangers. That was a bit weird. And the whole being crazy thing was a bit weird too. In America it felt like they were trying to silence me by making out that I was crazy - before I ever really was crazy.”
She was 25 at the time. I am 45, and I’ve still been struggling with the same thing - the horribly anxious experience of putting your words in the hands of people who are nothing like you, and who, ultimately, are looking for an angle that will attract attention. They have a few options open: they can tragedise; they can mock; they can probe for juicier details than have already been voluntarily revealed. Either way, your own narrative is taken from your hands.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Clearing by Katherine May to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.