Long Reads Pick of the Week: November 30, 2013

Since I spend so much time reading long-form non-fiction online, I’m going to link to my favourite one every week for anyone who’s interested in similar reading.

The Eternal Tide of Dirty Laundry

I can hear weeds growing outside. I can hear my pores clogging. I can hear dust settling on the furniture. I can hear an ant finding its way under the back door. I can hear my arteries hardening. You try to prevent these things from happening, but there is no escape. Paint peels from the baseboards; the refrigerator hums, waiting to break; sunlight sears a faded spot across the rug; peaches grow soft and mouldy in a wire basket on the counter.

And then there is the dirty laundry.

We learn a lot about ourselves, about our plight in life as former free spirits who mutated into heads of household, when we gaze into that crashing river of dirty laundry that rushes through the closets and hallways of our habitat. Do we feel powerless, when we finally recognise that we’ll never truly conquer it?

Yes, it’s true that every now and then, you stop and say: ‘There. I did the laundry. The laundry is done.’

You are a fool. For even as you speak the words, the hamper is filling up.

Heather Havrilesky, Aeon Magazine

Book Review: The Adventures of Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley

millyThe Adventures of Milly-Molly-Mandy

Joyce Lankester Brisley

Pages: 480

Price: I picked up my copy at a secondhand book sale

Publisher: Puffin Books

Rating: 4/5

Once upon a time there was a little girl.

She had a Father, and a Mother, and a Grandpa, and a Grandma, and an Uncle, and an Aunty; and they all lived together in a nice white cottage with a thatched roof.

This little girl had short hair, and short legs, and short frocks (pink-and-white-striped cotton in summer, and red serge in winter). But her name wasn’t short at all. It was Millicent Margaret Amanda. But Father and Mother and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle and Aunty couldn’t very well call out ‘Millicent Margaret Amanda!’ every time they wanted her, so they shortened it to ‘Milly-Molly-Mandy,’ which is quite easy to say.

And thus starts the book starring the immensely likable Milly-Molly-Mandy who had so many stories written about her.

The Adventures of Milly-Molly-Mandy contains a series of four books, published together in a single volume – Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories, More of Milly-Molly-Mandy, Further Doings of Milly-Molly-Mandy, and Milly-Molly-Mandy Again.

These stories come straight out of the 1920s, and I wish I had discovered them as a child. I can just imagine myself recreating Milly-Molly-Mandy’s life in the village in my small corner of the city.

Each of the four books in the series has a line-drawing of a map in the beginning. The map depicts Milly-Molly-Mandy’s village with key landmarks that make an appearance in the stories in that book. For example, The Blackberry Patch (where M-M-M and little-friend Susan did not go blackberrying, and The Tree (which M-M-M climbed). Each book contains about thirteen stories, each of which doesn’t go over more than a few pages. With nothing else to compare them to, to me the stories are reminiscent of Enid Blyton without all the magic and criminals.

The stories are gentle and contained in the village and the lives of its people. They belong to an era and culture that is wholly alien to me, precisely why they are such a pleasure to read. The plot of each story is simple – no evil wizards, no fate-of-the-world at stake, not even a foiled kidnapping plot. Instead you have Milly-Molly-Mandy in charge of a shop for one afternoon (and feeling very proud) or climbing up a tree (and getting stuck there) or you have her writing letters (because she wants some letters of her own) or dealing with a village gang (who knock hats and lunches to the ground).

The simple rhythm of the writing and Milly-Molly-Mandy’s village goings-on makes me nostalgic for a life I was never a part of. I don’t know how much the book would appeal to children used to instant gratification and information at their fingertips but me, I can’t wait to lose myself in the stories all over again.

Rhyme and Reason: November 15, 2013

Sometimes I stare boredly into space, thinking utterly of nothing.

This makes Mrs. Wilberton very irritated.

I get on her nerves.

I know this because she is always telling me I do.

To be honest, Mrs. Wilberton is not my favourite person on the planet of Earth.

Unfortunately, I am from Earth and she is my teacher.

Mrs. Wilberton says I have got utterly not a speck of concentration.

I am trying to prove her wrong about this by trying to remember to concentrate.

I think about it all the time. I am so desperately trying not to not concentrate and I say to myself, ‘Don’t drift off like you did yesterday.’

And then I start thinking about how I drifted off yesterday and how I was thinking I must listen to Mrs Wilberton and all the things she is telling me.

And then I am wondering, how does all this stuff she is telling me fit into my head?

And then I am wondering if I should have a clear out of the stuff I don’t need anymore – you know, like when my dad cleared out the attic, except we all decided we needed everything and he just had to put it all back again.

But maybe valuable space is being taken up in my head with not the important things and that is why I can’t concentrate because all my concentration space has been used up on things like, ‘Elbows off the table’, and, ‘Don’t pinch your brother’, and pointless not needed things which don’t matter.

“CLARICE BEAN! Will you please come back down to Earth this instant!”

It’s Mrs. Wilberton.

You can tell by her honking goose voice.

She says, “Clarice Bean, you are utterly lacking in the concentration department. A common housefly has got more ability to apply itself!”

And I want to say, “You are utterly lacking in the manners department, Mrs. Wilberton, and a rhinoceros has got more politeness than you.”

Lauren Child, Utterly Me, Clarice Bean

You can read a review of the book Utterly Me, Clarice Bean here and you can read an excerpt from another Clarice Bean book – Clarice Bean Spells Troublehere.