Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dear Guardian, please stop commissing this drivel.

Kirsty Gunn is not working on her next novel. She is not a columnist for the London Review of Books. She has chosen instead to disappear from the professional world and embrace a domestic life just as rich and inspiring…

‘Disappear from the professional world’? Apart, that is, from writing reviews and short stories, having a book published, and churning out 1,500 words of incoherent bilge for a national newspaper.

Kirsty set out her credentials straight away.

"I am a woman who writes and reads, who was educated to compete and be successful – academically, financially and politically – in the world. And I am also a woman who has chosen to have children and look after those children, not pass them on to a full time nanny or institution.."

Hold your horses there Kirsty - ‘nanny’ or ‘institution’?

Could your tone be any more accusatory? Is there any word in the English language so cold, so forbidding, so suggestive of abuse and lack of love as ‘institution’? Or a phrase so suggestive of indolence and indifference as ‘full-time nanny’?

What about the middle ground? Childminders, nursery schools, grannies…that’s where all my friends’ young children happily spend their days while their parents are at work. What about evenings, weekends, holidays?

Every young mother I know has gone back to work after having children. Some full, some part-time. Some after a few months, some after a year off. Not one of them has agonised about the decision (and given new mums’ propensity to talk about everything and anything baby-related I imagine they’d mention it if they did).

When I was a child, my mother worked, most of my friends’ mothers didn’t. Simple logistics are evident - women with three or fewer children worked, women with four or more didn’t.

No big deal either way.

I really do not want to read endless interminable articles about women giving up their careers becasue that's the only way to be a Proper Mother. Especially when they haven’t actually given up their careers at all.

Kirsty concludes by confirming that she is not a lead columnist for the London Review of Books, as if that is the pinnacle of, I don’t know, career, ambition, working life.

Would the Guardian run an interview with a shelf-stacker as Asda, triumphant that she had given up the chance to work on the tills For Her Children?

(Circulation of the LRB? 43, 469. About the same as the local rag in, say, Plymouth.)

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  • God, I love it when you get righteously ranty.
    I'm with you one hundred percent on this one.

    By Blogger dive, at 11:46 AM  

  • Thanks for the link to that article. Incoherent bilge indeed ... "I return again and again for strength and inspiration to the closed domestic universes created by Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf". Arf arf.

    One of the funniest things I've read recently.

    By Blogger Betty, at 12:54 PM  

  • She's on a higher plane than me.

    I would give my right arm to live so poetically. To fly, to soar. To see wonder in the most menial thing. To see the light in a child's eyes at the moment it's having a shit.

    By Blogger Geoff, at 1:51 PM  

  • It reads like she's just gone through some serious counselling after some sort of burn out/ break down/ post natal deppression.

    Poor thing - I will be writing a get well soon letter c/o Guardian for her, and a seperate one to the G for printing exploitative articles by the mentally ill.

    By Anonymous kissing just for practice, at 2:25 PM  

  • "The closed domestic universes created by Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf" were chaotic and vulnerable if their diaries are anything to go by. Their fictional creations are some of the most menacing environments in literature.
    Is she taking the piss?

    By Blogger Arabella, at 3:13 PM  

  • Aha! I've just finished a blog article about this.

    It was one of most smug, self-satisfied and navel-gazing pieces of indulgent upper middle class shite I've read for a long long time.

    And that picture of her girly-girls blowing bubbles made me want to hurl.

    If Kirsty ever ventured out beyond Hampstead or whichever over-moneyed suburb it is where she lives, she'd realise that generally speaking, woemn do look after their own children, in circumstances far worse than her own privileged environment.

    She should work in a chip shop for six months on the minimum wage, then see how Virginia Woolf can help her discover an interior universe.

    By Anonymous looby, at 3:29 PM  

  • To be fair, I think she means the universes created by Virginia Woolf, rather than her actual universe.

    Still, what drivel.

    By Blogger Billy, at 3:52 PM  

  • One word. COCK.

    Can we persuade her to go down by a river and load her cardigan pockets with stones, a la V Woolf?

    By Blogger Clair, at 5:13 PM  

  • The Guardian is really going downhill. This pisses me off almost as much as the "articl" they ran earlier this week that claimed atheists and agnostics were all as radical as the Islamic fundie who blew up the tube.

    What happened to reporting the news?

    By Blogger Chaucer's Bitch, at 6:30 PM  

  • It's not so much the smug yummy-mummy-ness that pissed me off (although aren't newspapers supposed to reflect their readership?). I'm well used to that by now and the Guardian certainly isn't the worst offender.

    It was just the general un-readability of the article. Look at the length of those paragraphs. And would Kirsty like me to introduce her to the full-stop? Here's one. And another.

    I actually missed the Virginia Woolf bit (thank you all for highlighing it) even after reading the whole thing through twice, because it was just so impenetrable.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 7:17 PM  

  • Oh, how noble of her to lower herself to stay at home when she was 'educated for a different world'. I imagine she spends a lot of the day clasping a child's teddy to her bosom and heaving great meaningful sighs as she stands by her open french windows, hair and simple, pure, white gown billowing in the breeze as she contemplates the magnitude of her selflessness and nobility and how perfect Tilly and Jemima look playing with the nostalgic wooden toys she's bought them to hearken back to some imaginary childhood idyll.

    Sorry, I don't know what came over me there. I meant to say "oh for fuck's sake, what does she want, a medal?" I wonder what her husband's job is. Is she the same lady whose house got hit by a tornado, the style is eerily similar.

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 9:11 PM  

  • Irritating, self-satisfied twat.

    By Blogger realdoc, at 11:14 PM  

  • violet for the moment: bob on.

    By Anonymous looby, at 12:00 AM  

  • You're right -- it's unreadable, among other things. I hope you've actually sent your commentary to family@guardian.co.uk. What they could do with is someone who is a centre and generator of all manner of relationships except the tiresomely messy standard family ones...

    By Anonymous zebra, at 1:04 AM  

  • As someone who doesn't have quite as many words to play with as Kirsty, I find this kind of thing deeply troubling. As you so rightly point out, she has spent an incredibly long time saying incredibly little incredibly badly.

    Ah well, good job she's soon to be falling off the radar, if not Waterloo Bridge.

    By Anonymous 100 Words, at 11:47 AM  

  • "This is an extract from 44 Things: My Year At Home by Kirsty Gunn, published by Atlantic Books, £15.99. To order a copy for £14.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0870 836 0875"

    Yikes. There's a whole book of this stuff?

    By Blogger Billy, at 12:14 PM  

  • This-


    made me want to kick her teeth in.
    But then if I read The Mail I deserve every bit of (self-)loathing I get

    By Anonymous blinky, at 1:13 PM  

  • a very tiresome article

    and not in the least representative of the women i know who have chosen (and are able) to stay at home to care for their kids (myself included)

    but hell, what do i know? it seems most of the universe regards me and my ilk as brain dead with the conversational abilities of a dead rat

    p.s. by contrast, madeleine bunting's piece in today's g2 was much more palatable/truthful

    By Blogger Urban Chick, at 4:35 PM  

  • Kirsty will shop exclusively at Boden.

    By Blogger Bex, at 4:48 PM  

  • If I start putting fucking excruciating poems at the end of my articles, will someone please put a bolt-gun to my head?

    Thank you.

    By Blogger Tim Footman, at 5:59 PM  

  • I wishs mummy would go back to work; Tarquin and myself are sick unto death of her endless self congratulatory bullshit. she's just bought us one of those twee drystone building sets and is now waiting round corners with the digital to snap a pic of us playing with the cunting thing.
    god please someone help us.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:38 PM  

  • if she has time to write such drive, then she's not doing the whole "Professional Mummy" thing properly.
    Thank God someone reads the Guardian so I don't have to! Do they pay their jounalists by the word or something, with penalties for correct grammar?

    By Blogger Smat, at 8:27 PM  

  • Hee, 'Anonymous' made me laugh.

    This woman and Caroline Phillips definitely have a lot in common. Perhaps they share the same trauma specialist (as hinted at by Kissing Just for Practice).

    By Blogger patroclus, at 8:36 PM  

  • Now I really want to know what her kids are actually called. Tilly and Jemima are worth putting a few quid on, I reckon.

    I think she maight be closely related to Caroline Phillips...

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 9:25 PM  

  • Good guess, even worse I suspect their world knows them as 'Tils' and 'Mimes'...Yuk

    By Blogger miss-cellany, at 9:57 PM  

  • she's had a cubic shitload of publicity though - how did that happen? is she frightfully well connected or summat?

    By Blogger mad muthas, at 11:15 PM  

  • Fucking Hell. Someone has paid this woman for writing this shit. And it seems it is not the first time. Life really is not fair. '44 things....' Why wasn't one of them 'shut up about how I have dropped out of the rat race but clearly haven't because I can't keep my grubby paws from writing (atrociously) about it just in case anyone should no longer be interested in me.'

    By Blogger The Curve, at 9:05 AM  

  • What a load of old toss. Who exactly is she trying to convince? There seems to be an thread of panic running through the whole thing.

    By Blogger Kellycat, at 8:24 AM  

  • I'm SO glad you wrote about this - I was hugely furious at that piece that all I could do was seeth and gnash my teeth whilst in my head composing a furious e mail to none other than Gunn herself. Who the fuck does she think she is? No doubt her husband is a banker or very high up in publishing (!) enabling her to indulge her uber mater-fantasies. Happy bubble-blowing Jemima and Cassandra are no doubt exhausted by endless Mandarin and Suzuki method violin classes after school. Her tone was deeply, offensively patronising. And most of all - she's a blatant hypocrite.

    By Blogger rockmother, at 9:11 AM  

  • Completely agree with Kissing - there is definitely a thread of panic running through that article. It's a self-consciously would-be poetic piece, finished off by that "poem" at the end. Does she have some kind of rivalry going with Adrienne Rich? It reads as though she's trying to come to terms with a decision or a happening that she's isn't happy about.

    Anyway, the whole family sounds disturbed, if her husband weeps when he drops off his younger daughter at nursery school.

    It seems her daughters are called Millie and Katherine, by the way.

    By Blogger Tamburlaine, at 2:38 PM  

  • God, what a ghastly woman - smug, condescending and a rubbish poet.

    Sweeping up stars? Sod that. Get a Dyson - they're sweep up stars faster than you can write sickly poetry, Katherine.

    By Blogger Hannah, at 11:28 PM  

  • Just checked the Daily Mail article - her kids are called Helena, Halcyon and Theodore. Pretentious, moi?

    By Blogger Hannah, at 10:38 AM  

  • Ooops - different woman, sorry. Still a smug little bitch, though.

    By Blogger Hannah, at 10:41 AM  

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