Motherhood is a new subject for this column, and perhaps an unexpected one.
Certainly it seems remarkable that two books on the same subject — though, of course, from different angles — should appear at roughly the same time. Is it a sign of the times?
“The M Word”, subtitled “Conversations About Motherhood”, an edited by Kerry Clare is published by Goose Lane at $22.95. Ut consists of 25 essays on the subject (pro and con), mostly by young Canadian women writers. In addition, there is a foreword by the editor (who also gets to write one of the essays), and a final one on “grandmothering.” All of this is in 314 pages.
The other, a much shorter book is called “MotherFumbler.” It’s written by Vicki Murphy who’s a well-known television personality, columnist and media figure generally in those parts. It consists of about seven columns with such titles as “Human Skittles,” “Pobody’s Nerfect” and “Rain, Drizzle, Fog and Family.” Breakwater Books publishes it at $19.95.
The stories collected in “The M Word” range from reasonable reasons why not to have children as in “Babies in a Dangerous Time” by Nicole Dixon to Marita Dachsel who was about to move from Edmonton to Vancouver with three small children, the youngest nine months; “What Can’t Be Packed Away” tells of her endeavours to keep them safe, knowing it’s practically impossible.
What’s missing in all of these essays is something about how it feels to be the mother of 14 — or even 10. Yet not long ago such mothers were common. And though they’re older, many of them are still around. Why couldn’t some have been asked? And what about mothers on the Prairies, above the Arctic Circle, off in the wilderness somewhere or simply on a small farm in the country? In other words, these essays were mostly written by a subset of professional women living in Ontario. They do not represent us all. Only one of the contributors to this book is from the Atlantic provinces.
“MotherFumbler” is a harder book to read because one cannot read too many of the episodes at a time and Murphy’s language is not only colourful but censored.
It’s also funny quite often.
Murphy herself is quite a character as is her boy, Max, who is two or three, depending on where you pick up the book. Everyone else is vividly portrayed as far as they can be.
While her style of writing is strictly informal, and the writers in “The M Word” are conventionally good, the contrast can and should be enjoyable.
If you are interested in the subject at all, try both books. You may become bored, angry, sad, disgusted, overcome with laughter — and certainly you won’t want to read anything more about motherhood for a while.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her ather new address: 95 Orange St., Apt. 101, Saint John N.B., E2L 1M5,or call her at 506-693-5498.