A Line Made By Walking by Sara Baume
Emoji summary: 🚶♀️↘️🦊
there have been waves of depression in my life n I think there always will be - and not like, well, these aren’t times to stop what I’m doing and dramatically prepare. I don’t know when the next one’ll come. life conditional, beyond my control. It could all break down again and I’d be unable to make jokes / sex wouldn’t go the way it does now / n I’d fall into gross repetitions, watching the same 20 minutes of news go round in circles until BBC breakfast finally ends. the remote is too far away, you get it. Not in time with anything as tho daylight savings has happened only to me and I am not allowed to catch up, & Worse off for still living at home where people will be pissed off that I’m not going the gym to change things. tiny, guilty, an embarrassment even tho how can I be? i am on silent mode, moon mode, and all i’m trying to do is hide.
I’m not there nowww phew but even though I have been, i full on dread when the people around me get depressed. no offence but life is flat in our company. in my own daze, i become so still I wont move to scratch an itch; i’ll leave the piece of hair where it is, spiking into my eye. I try to be helpful for my friends in little ways /clean for them, buy food-things/ but i accept that time will tell and heal + leave their body lighter, if only relatively. Reading Sara Baume’s book ‘A Line Made By Walking’ was like visiting a depressed friend. It was only 300 pages but it took me months bc I read it in glances when I could face the music. the book is puffy from all the times we spent in the bath together, before i’d put the book down to watch youtube instead. In the story, narrator Frankie has left her gallery job and bedsit in Dublin bc of an out-of-step depression that pushes her to solitude / breakdowns / carefulness. her grandmother has died and so she moves out to the Irish countryside to caretake the house she owned there, which weirdly sits beneath a turbine on a hill. it’s the type of respite I’d be too scared to indulge myself in incase I went mad, and Frankie does go there at points - does things that don’t make sense to me, obsesses, remembers, overthinks, snaps at people who are trying to be kind, collapses in tears, and puts a wash on with washing up liquid. banal-sad, uneventful, particular. The book had an ugliness I never see anyone admit to, and because of that the tone felt privately familiar. it is what I enjoyed most. It can be such a boring wait to complete another day and move onto the next, n frankie was enduring that the whole time. i sympathised.
More than I do with visual artists, i always want to point out A B n C with writers bc it’s easier in a way: words are material so i kno you can see what I see. There are two patterns throughout the book that hang like dead fairy lights on wire. 1. whenever Frankie sees a dead animal out in the countryside she documents it, and the book includes black and white prints of these - birds, a badger, a fox. And 2. as the narrator goes about her thinking, she constantly recalls examples of artworks that relate to Deprivation, Zoos, Television, or whatever the moment requires. For example, ‘Works about Discomfort, I test myself: Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance, 1980-81. From 7 p.m. on 11 April 1980 to 6 p.m. on 11 April 1981, Hsieh punched a time clock on the house every hour. t the end of the performance, Hsieh had 366 clock-cards, plus one photograph for every punch, and had not slept for more than sixty minutes straight in an entire year. I think I know what discomfort is? I don’t.’ References in anything can either add to the depth of the point ur trying to make in a way you can’t manage alone, can illustrate something, or they can sit out of place n just be a reach. There were a TONNE of these in the book, too many, and while often they were useful it turned me against frankie a little bit, who came off as a know-it-all. Made the pace a bit clunky as well. I met someone recently who worked on the tv show Eggheads and said that at the Christmas party, they all had zero chat. it makes sense - knowledge can get in the way of character. it would freak me out if the people i want in my life / the characters I want in my books started shouting FUN FACT in conversation whenever they could. worldly historical cultural knowledge as character is a brittle thing to behold.
but the dead animal portraits dotted through the book were fitting, they enacted some soft honour on behalf of nature n its chaos. They hardly needed explaining. I thought, I understood the experience of depression so well that I appreciated the lack of dialogue, but for the same reason wished there was less overthinking and more description in its place. at one point, Frankie describes the way the glow-in-the-dark stars on her childhood bedroom ceiling have been painted over n I loved the language Baume used there. Sometimes it felt as tho the writer was trying to squeeze an allegory out of every minute thing tho, n that betrayed the slow energy of it all for me. too learnt in a book so natural. Does that make sense? I hope so. I liked the ending but I wont mention that bc spoilers except to say it was the perfect way to end a book like this imo. I did not like the cover one bit, too Cath Kidston for the subject. Okay! i hope this review is USEFUL and a bit interesting. I should read more books it’s fun.
Book available here.