“I feel like there are the people who see mother artists as monsters, and then there is the mother who knows the monster as the version of herself where art is absent.” —Jessi Brock
Welcome to the Art Monsters book club/reading group; that is, a book club where we read fiction and non-fiction, paired with an art work. The works we will read/observe will be about motherhood, not/mothering, and sundry. ‘Art monsters’ is borrowed from the incredible Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, in which the narrator laments:
“My plan was to never get married. I was going to be an art monster instead. Women almost never become art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves with art, never mundane things. Nabokov didn’t even fold his own umbrella. Vera licked his stamps for him.”
Art Monsters will focus on fiction and creative non-fiction in novel and short story form, alongside peripheral contemporary and historical art. It will be low-key, slow paced, but also intimate and rigorous in our close-read analysis. I am a fan of the close read and the possibility of language. It will be held Zoom/in-person for those available, especially when the weather gets warmer and we can share food as well as our gestures. You can join us anytime.
Starting in February 2023, we will read a book and artwork a month.
We will start with Little Labours (2019) by Rivka Galchen, paired with Madeline Donahue’s Scissors (2022). Little Labours—inspired by an eleventh-century Japanese text The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon—is 144 pages of astute observations about babies, motherhood, and literature. Scissors presents the absurdity and joy of the never-alone mother artist. Both set the tone for what I imagine this book club to be: attentive, non-linear, and funny in its ruminations.
Then we will decide together what we want to read and how. You can contribute as little or as much as you want to the form of this group. I also hope that we can have authors/artists join us in the future.
And because there are so many amazing books and magazines being published every month, I will also feature other recommended reading.
Some other book ideas (but not limited to!):
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
The Deborah Levy memoir trilogy
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Blue Nights by Joan Didion
Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso
On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
Strike Your Heart by Amélie Nothomb
Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garber
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar
And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O'Connell
Home/Birth: A Poemic by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker
Linea Nigra by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich
How to Raise an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
Fight Night by Miriam Toews
At the Bottom of the River by Jamaica Kincaid
It is open to all, not just mothers.
I hope you join me in this experiment, or share with others that may be interested.
Please reply here, or message me, and I will add you to the email list for more detailed instructions, with prompts and questions. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time but kept putting off because time and fear.
Rivka Galchen notes: “What we run away from often determines where and to what we run.”
I don’t want anyone to feel excluded for financial reasons, so please let me know if you would like an e-book version of any books we read.