Make no mistake: this novel is bleak. What Joy is going through is real and raw. But it is the most accurate depiction of what really happens in depression that I recall coming across in a novel.
[writing letter] “The photograph you asked for is enclosed. I’m sorry it looks so terrible: polaroids never show me at my best.”
I write HAHA so she knows it’s a joke to be on the safe side then look at the photo near the edge of the table. I took it facing the mirror because I couldn’t work the self-timer. The camera bludgeons off half my face and the flash whites out the rest. My arms are looped over my head to reach the shutter and hold the thing in place. It looks like a spider devouring a light bulb. The only visible eye is shut from the glare. It doesn’t look like anybody. It doesn’t look like
Outside there is scaffolding and a strip of moon. Pockmarks of rain on the glass. Alter the focus and you see eyes. They blink when I do but it proves nothing. There’s no of telling if it’s really
Last Sunday night…
What will I do while I’m lasting, Marianne? What will I do?
The day Marianne left, I found a note pinned to the kitchen wall. It was there when I came back from the station without her along with some books of poems, addresses, a foreign phone number, money and a bottle of gin. The gin and the money went long since. The note is still there.
THINGS YOU CAN DO IN THE EVENING
Listen to the radio
Have a bath
Listen to records
Write letters or visit
Go for a walk
Go out for a meal
Phone someone nice
I hear every radio programme at least twice. I can recite the news by the time I go to bed. Besides I have to move around while I’m listening. This is not an occupation on its own.
TV is tricky: the news is depressing and the programmes sometimes worse. I hate adverts. They are full of thin women doing exercises and smiling all the time. They make me guilty.
The water takes ages for a bath. I hate waiting.
It’s asking for trouble to listen to music alone.
I already read everything. I read poems and plays and novels and newspapers and comic books and magazines. I read tins in supermarkets and leaflets that come through the door, unsolicited mail. None of it lasts long and it doesn’t give me answers. Reading too fast is not soothing.
Writing is problematic. I cover paper with words as fast as painting. Sometimes it’s indecipherable and I throw it away.
Visiting is awkward. The place I live is an annexe of nowhere and besides, I don’t like to wish myself on anyone.
Walking is awful. I do that when I want to feel worse. I always run.
Sewing and going for a meal. Tricky juxtaposition.
I’m getting worried though. Some of the things I do worry me. I want things I can’t have, trivial things. I want cards. I want cartoon characters and trite verses wishing me well. I see Michael in buses and cars and walks past the road outside the window. Visiting times are terrible. I can’t get the hang of not wondering what to knit him for Christmas.
The difference is minding. I mind the resultant moral dilemma of having no answers. I never forget the f*&%$*g questions. They’re always there, accusing me of having no answers yet. If there are no answers there is no point: a terror of absurdity.
As I mentioned, I haven't been able to find many articles or reviews of this book...not in the NY Times, the London Times Literary Supplement, etc. Most of what comes up from a search has to do with the Garbage song of the same name. This is surprising because it won some awards in Scotland (Galloway's homeland) and was shortlisted for some more internationally known awards. It's also a damn good book about a woman's experience with depression and is just as relevant, insteresting, distressing, whatnot as Girl, Interupted, which obviously deals with a similar (though true) experience. I have often returned to Girl, Interupted when I find myself in a hole...I've read it at least three or four times. When you're down in it, it's best to have someone with you - and not someone who is going to tell you "oh I've been there, it'll get better" or "just get over it," or whatever else people might say. With books, you are able to find your own thoughts in a text...which is good because often depression takes away your thoughts, or your ability to articulate them, even in your own head. All you have is an emotion without words.
Personally, I didn't find the book overly depressing, but then again I read Holocaust literature for "fun" so my opinion might be skewed. Others with more cheerful dispositions might have a completely different experience. But it was definately exactly what I needed. The trick is to keep breathing. Everything else will come when it's time.
P.S. NOTE FOR ROBBY V: There is a lot of gin drinking in this book. I, however, did not join in as I don't care for gin. :-)