But cancer has also ushered in new ways of being alive. Even when I am this distant from Canadian family and friends, everything feels as if it is painted in bright colors. In my vulnerability, I am seeing my world without the Instagrammed filter of breezy certainties and perfectible moments. I can’t help noticing the brittleness of the walls that keep most people fed, sheltered and whole. I find myself returning to the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.
Reading Jeet Thayil’s Collected Poems is a reminder of the singular pleasures of reading the work of a poet from first book to last. You see changing approaches to form — from terse implosive verse to expansive, full-throated song; from a nascent verbal ingenuity to an ability to combine exuberance with exactitude.
After reading the rest of the stories, however, the older meaning of the word hysterical came to the fore and I began to see the introductory story as the anxious thesis of the book. These privileged women have made a career of the domestic arts, and their virulent pride over their daily reality frays and distorts their prim facades. They flare up and blaze, punching out from behind their perfect veneers to ruthlessly protect what is theirs, and they do it with withering wit. They want to matter, regardless of what they do or what they can offer the world; for their domestic salad spinning to be as valuable as CPR. The women of American Housewife are hysterical in both senses of the word, often at the same time.
Over the last few years, a handful of researchers have compiled growing evidence that the same cells that monitor an individual’s location in space also mark the passage of time. This suggests that two brain regions—the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, both famous for their role in memory and navigation—can also act as a sort of timer.