William Langewiesche, watch your back.
Damn fiction.

Unsentimental parenting memoirs, part two.

How I happened to have both Michael Lewis's Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, and Rachel Cusk's A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother, home at the same time, was a matter of pure chance.

Cusk Cusk is a British author whose novels I have been considering reading, because traditionally I enjoy British authors very much. So when I saw that she had written a memoir on being a mother, I thought that might be interesting too, so I requested it from the library. The next week, my copy of Home Game came in too, so by chance, I read two very interesting, very different, very slim (always a plus with me) nonfiction titles on the raising of children.

Although I enjoyed them both, I think the edge goes to the Lewis book, and that mainly for staying power. I really, really enjoyed the first few chapters of the Cusk book, but as it went on I lost interest, and I'll freely admit I only skimmed the last few chapters. (Bookslut has noticed this problem with Cusk as well; opining that she is better in interviews than she is on the page.)

But what I did love about it was some of its early, frank prose. Consider:

"This experience forcefully revealed to me something to which I had never given much thought: the fact that after a child is born the lives of its mother and father diverge, so that where before they were living in a state of some equality, now they exist in a sort of feudal relation to each other. A day spent at home caring for a child could not be more different from a day spent working in an office. Whatever their relative merits, they are days spent on opposite sides of the world. From that irreconcilable beginning, it seemed to me that some kind of slide into deeper patriarchy was inevitable: that the father's day would gradually gather to it the armour of the outside world, of money and authority and importance, while the mother's remit would extend to cover the entire domestic sphere. It is well known that in couples where both parents work full-time, the mother generally does far more than her fair share of housework and childcare, and is the one to curtail her working day in order to meet the exigencies of parenthood. That is an issue of sexual politics, but even in the most generous household, which I acknowledge my own to be, the gulf between childcarer and worker is profound. Bridging it is extremely difficult." (pp. 5-6.)

Now, I think there's a lot of interesting stuff going on in that paragraph, and there's a lot of other paragraphs that are at least that interesting. So, two suggestions: if you're in the market for a Mommy Memoir that is filled with anecdotes about how having a baby completed the author and her baby is the cutest and the best baby ever, this book will probably not be for you. Also, if you do pick it up, don't be afraid to stop reading it if you start to find yourself losing interest. You'll feel better about the first half, which is excellent, if you don't force yourself through the second half, which simply loses a bit of its punch.