Lynn Davidson’s terrific essay on Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things

Have reposted this to due to my slumber morning brain where I mixed up our poet Lynns.


full essay available here at Text Vol 20 number 2

On a single day in a wintery week I finished reading Charlotte Wood’s blazing novel The Natural Way of Things and went to the Degas exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. I went to the exhibition in the early afternoon instead of applying for a job – or another in the patchwork of jobs that keep a roof over my head. I needed my brain to be washed through with colour and dance and process. I wanted to remember about movement and change; things even more reliable than death and taxes.  Later that day, on a 1½-hour train journey from work, hungry for dinner, I finished Wood’s novel. I read how the main character, Verla, makes a hard and conscious decision to ‘jump off the bus’ that is taking a group of brutalized girls ‘home’ to the implied safety of a corporate, market-led world.

I teach creative writing, and now that tertiary teaching has been largely casualised, my working life is mixed: rich, stressful, and very often and very suddenly just not there. There is no continuity. So, four evenings a week I travel three hours to tutor kids for two hours at a modest hourly rate. This saves me from financial free-fall when the university semester ends (well, not quite, this job is also ‘casual’ but the holidays are shorter and the work more reliable). I give you this context because both the book and the exhibition are about work, about women’s work. So here’s another bit of context. I was a single mother who raised two children without financial support from their fathers. Any reserves of energy and time were spent on a very long battle around custody of my daughter. But those difficulties aren’t the defining things. Our little family had, and has, a good time. It’s just that I’m writing about women’s work and art, and suddenly this fact of single parenting seems important to say.

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