Whether what follows amounts to a tale is not something I feel especially competent to judge. I have known people who would feel angry and let down if they were sold this piece on the understanding that it was a story. My Great-aunt Nell was one. She has long since passed on, having died in a mental hospital after many years of exile in the absolute solitude of Alzheimer’s disease; but while she was alive and daylit she never experienced any difficulty assigning texts she came across to their correct genres. She would have had no use for terms – like ‘fictions’ or ‘factions’ or ‘fictional essays’ – that pander to the uncertainties of pussy-footed intellectuals who have lost confidence in the simple distinction between truth and fiction. As for myself, still alive and apparently sane, I do not share her certainty and shall be quite happy to go along with any reader who would prefer to classify the ‘tale’ I am about to tell as an ‘essay’; or to de-classify it and call it a ‘construct’.
Certain Thoughts Arising out of being Pointed out by my Two-year-old Son
‘When I think of menopause I don’t think of hot flashes; I am not here to talk about hot flashes.’ Mary Ruefle on menopause.
Urvashi Butalia on the life of transgender Mona Ahmed and her search for a feminine identity.
The Weak Spot
‘Murder class was the new thing, but of course they didn’t call it that. They called it Specialised Life Skills for Girls.’ – Sophie Mackintosh
woman is a construct
‘woman is basically meant / to be a residential complex’ – A poem by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan.
Rachel Cusk on motherhood, marriage and separation.
Breasts: A History
‘My breasts are shrinking. As my fat redistributes it settles in my belly and leaves my chest.’
Now, Now, Louison
Jean Frémon on the artist Louise Bourgeois and her fascination with spiders. Translated from the French by Cole Swensen.