Friday, August 7, 2009


"Somebody buys my daughter a book, a cloth thing that is part-toy, and her eyes light up when she sees it. I show her the pictures. She is apparently enthralled. I buy more books for her. She can sit up now, and they surround her in stacks. She sifts through them alone, uncomplaining, for literally hours at a time while I read childcare manuals in an adjacent chair. Eventually it strikes me that there is something wrong with this arrangement. I sit her on my lap and we look at her books together; I show her the sheep, the duck, the cow. I realize that my head is full of mantras, of the maddening phrases of Spock and Leach and their ilk. Their tics have haunted me, have invaded my language. Now I point and make animal noises like someone in an asylum. Presently words begin to appear in my daughter's books and with them a new verbal virus comes to plague me. Oddly I don't mind it as much. It is inane, bizarre, redolent of madness. Elmer flies in the wind. I have to check it from spilling from my mouth at inappropriate times. What's under the table, Spot? She becomes attached to a book that is too old for her, by Dr. Seuss. It is about the alphabet.

O is very useful.
You use it when you say
Oscar's only ostrich oiled an orange owl today.

There is a picture of a flamboyant ostrich holding an oil can over the head of an orange owl. Dr. Spock and Dr. Seuss have become confused in my mind. I imagine one became the other and these verses strike me sympathetically as the ravings of an addled sensibility, as postcards from the edge.

X is very useful if your name is Nixie Knox.
It also comes in handy
Spelling axe and extra fox.

The extra fox wears a smart yellow jacket. It haunts my dreams, flits dashingly across my waking hours."

– from A Life's Work / by Rachel Cusk