The book covers a day in the life of Bird, a mother and wife, and how moments in her life will take her back to a previous love affair.
CMU’s Ben Thorp sat down with Noy Holland to try and unpack the book…
Ben: The importance of naming in the book. We have Bird, the main character, who is named by her former lover/romantic partner Mickey, what is the importance of her being named by him that name sticks with her into the present and all of the people, her family, in the present go unnamed?
Noy: I mean obviously her husband and her children and the family dog, the dog of the marriage, all have names. But since the book is so much suspended in the mind of Bird it wouldn’t seem natural for her to name those characters at that time when really she is taken up and obsessed with that narrative of the past, with Mickey. That narrative of the past really becomes her reality, and when you name something you give it dominance, right?
Ben: That couple reminded me a lot of Willa Cather’s O! Pioneers there’s a couple in there, very passionate, and they die. The novel intimates that because they were so passionate it couldn’t last. Is there a way to get both the passion and a degree of stability without sacrificing this feeling of being alive?
Noy: Bird even says this, ‘it can’t last, it just can’t last.’ I mean there is in a way in which you have to rescue yourself from this kind of tumult. But is the rescuing from that tumult, the retreat from that danger, is it a retreat? Does stability enervate, does it deplete your life of energy? I think the answer is no and yes. There is something about the repetition of the domestic that is hard to feel free in. There is a tendency in this culture and maybe in other cultures to kind of exalt motherhood and not to really reckon with the kind of.. There is a lot of mess in it, a lot of tedium, there is a lot of resistance to it in some way. I think if we say that isn’t true and don’t speak of it in art we’re telling women you shouldn’t feel that way.
Ben: So from going from that do you think there is a problem in glorifying a kind of wildness and then not necessarily looking at a the ups and downs of a more domestic life? When we acknowledge the ups and downs of a more domestic life, when we acknowledge the roller coaster that is int that domestic life too, we begin to understand that passion is still there.
Noy: Yeah, they are blent and gathered into one place. So how do we carry what we love? This is a questoin? How does Bird carry her love for Mickey into her love for her children, into her love for her husband, because we tend to see it as either or. I mean the book, I notice, is categorized as adultery, and she’s married and she hasn’t seen Mickey in her married life. Which says, I think, that if your love for another persists, if that passionate longing persists that it is an act of betrayal. I think that’s false. I think we have to allow ourselves to feel whatever love we feel, whether it is returned or not. We have to express it.
Ben: I’ll stop blabbing if you want to read a little.
Bird goes barefoot through the unhappy grass and finds her boy in the drift of leaves his pajamas splotched with dew. His feet leave wet prints on the kitchen floor that won’t dry until after Bird’s husband is gone, after Bird calls Suzie and Suzie calls Bird and Bird is drunk with the baby and coming apart in the tub upstairs. The dog will drink in the tub while they are in it and lick at the steamed up faucet. For now, the dog sleeps beside the wood stove, family dog, dog of the marriage no Maggie dog this dog. This dog sleeps the years away. Her boy is reading Babarr to this dog, remembering the words, his head on her neck for a pillow. “He’s dreaming somebody,” Bird’s boy says, “Look,” and catcher her tail in her sleep. The baby rocks in her singing seat thumping softly at the dog’s ribs, a tableau, a scene perfected luminous and dear. ‘When my children were small’ Bird will come to say and the scene repeats in her head.