I don’t usually archive the links to the work I do elsewhere, but it’s been a long summer with few updates, and I thought you guys might like to take a look at a few of these anyway:
An important online flashmob on sexual violence recently began in Ukraine and quickly spread to Russia and Belarus. These are NOT the countries you associate with any kind of frankness on the topic. So it was a pretty big deal. And being a big deal, it attracted plenty of trolls and critics. I wrote about how the flashmob and the reaction to it are great examples of this region’s collective PTSD.
Also in Ukraine, a very prominent and gifted Belarusian-Russian-Ukrainian journalist was tragically killed by a gangland-style car bomb. I wrote about what happened – and the implications.
But of course in the States, all we can really talk about the election. And Trump. And, nowadays, Trumputin. I wrote about the bad bromance between the Republican presidential nominee and the Russian leader – and how it may not work out that well for the Kremlin (in spite of every other American writer currently pointing out how Putin is the one who’s playing Trump. Which is true, by the way. He is playing him. But it will be hard to play him in the long term – and the Kremlin is remarkably bad at long term planning).
Last but not least, a link to my essay on Eurovision, Jamala, the Dakh Daughters, and Ukraine’s new femininity. I finally got to use the phrase “kill your boner” in a serious piece. I don’t know if it gets any better than that.
In Russia, August is traditionally associated with disasters. May we all avoid them to the best of our ability. Stay beautiful. Stay fabulous.
This post of on combining art and motherhood made the rounds this past winter. There were a lot of responses, public and private. Two of the more recent responses made me feel like revisiting the issue:
1. The Divided Heart is a more honest exploration of what it’s like to be a mother and an artist. I’m sorry, but I think you are over-compensating and it shows. For decades, women have been quite open about how combining great art and motherhood is almost always an impossibility. One blog post on the matter from someone who sold one play is not going to convince society.
2. All due respect, Natalie [sic], but people like you lure promising artists towards breeding, and the results are almost always disastrous. I wonder if you’ll change your mind when your kid is on the therapist’s couch, discussing the ways in which mum neglected him so she could make her Art, and he almost certainly will be.
So to address all that:
Who the hell are you to argue that women can be both mothers and great artists? You’re nobody! But it’s not about me.
The idea that you can’t reconcile being a mother with being great artist is, today, a peculiarly Western concept. In many other parts of the world, women just get on with it.
One of Russia’s greatest poets, Anna Akhmatova, was a mother. Nobody goes around wringing their hands on her behalf. One of Russia’s greatest painters, Zinaida Serebriakova, was a mother – and, once again, people really didn’t make a big deal out of it. Continue reading “Why don’t you treat men this way? The false dichotomy of “mother vs. artist””
In the early 1990s, in the weeks that led up to our departure to America, I remember walking with my father and cousin on the big stadium across from our building in Kiev. The nights were clear, and something about the lights from the more well-lit blocks of town made the sky above our heads look like a giant bowl – darker and deeper in the middle, full of stars that seemed to have been pulled down there by gravity, lighter on the edges, burnished with a reddish glow like a false dusk or dawn.
This same cousin bought a nice apartment right outside the city and we recently sat in his kitchen and drank Jameson while our sons played in the next room, occasionally interrupting a discussion where everyone did a very good job of steering clear of politics with screeches of delight as a toy train raced around the track.
My cousin and I are still in the “gathering” stage of our life, when people tend to gain more than they lose, when enough doors stand open that one doesn’t feel boxed in and claustrophobic from choices made earlier.
We are also both petulantly jobless at the moment, people who have been knocked around so much professionally that having faith in our careers feels childish. Continue reading “My sweetest friend”
If you are interested in the (somewhat frozen) conflict in parts of eastern Ukraine, you should hop on down to Kyiv’s brand new PostPlayTheater and check out the documentary play “Rebels” (“Ополченцi” in Ukrainian. The word itself usually has a slightly different meaning in English, but “rebel” is one of the standard terms for the separatists out east, so I am using it for now).
Rebels is the story of one man, recorded on a dictaphone by some kiosks on a late night in central Kyiv. The man used to be a part of the Russia-backed uprising in Donetsk, a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced over two million people. Continue reading “Kyiv’s PostPlayTheater: of “Rebels,” Donetsk, and discomfiting narratives”
When I was fourteen, I bought a copy of “Human Croquet” after reading about it in a magazine for girls (unexpected choice by the editor, I’ve come to realize). I had the original receipt for a while and jotted down the exact time, down to the minute, and place where the book was purchased.
I came back to that inscription in my senior year at Duke, when I was writing my (let’s face it, terrible) honors thesis on “Human Croquet.”
“Acquired at 7:33 p.m., May 17, 1998, Barnes & Noble, Arboretum, Charlotte, NC.”
There wasn’t much I understood at twenty, but I did understand why I wrote down the contents of the receipt. I was recording a life-changing moment. I met Michael Cunningham once when he came to give a talk at Duke, and he jovially discussed having his life upended by Virginia Woolf, and I was grateful for that, because it meant I wasn’t weird. Kate Atkinson just happened to split my particular atom.
Her work has changed over the years, gone both wide and deep, but some familiar themes have circled back this year: the handsome RAF pilot, the complete disaster of men and women, the cruel and lovely ambivalence of nature, the question of death and stepping sideways out of time, the tedium of children and how there’s nothing more important, Englishness (and how observing it changes it), the strange way men separate passion and love (like unspooling threads), the importance of getting on with it even when you’d rather lie down and melt back into the landscape again, lying down and melting into the landscape at a later date (though perhaps having helped someone in a way, so as to not have your existence be entirely without point), the fact that we are all so fragile as to almost be fiction. Continue reading “On the work of Kate Atkinson”