Pamflet salon: The Member of the Wedding/ “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman…”

Another hugely successful meeting of the Pamflet salon, this time hosted by the lovely Anna F at her bijou apartment on the Holloway Rd. To a shimmering indie soundtrack (Camera Obscura, Warpaint, Zola Jesus) we made a feeble attempt to discuss Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding – a book we all initially agreed we hadn’t particularly enjoyed. On further analysis, it became apparent this was for different reasons – for some, the forensically precise depiction of a girl on the verge of stepping from childhood into adulthood was painfully accurate and just too close for comfort; for others it was simply a case of ‘meh, who cares?

In Frankie/F.Jasmine/Frances we recognised the strange, horrible no-man’s land of that age. Carson is a genius at depicting the interior world of a girl on the threshold of womanhood, feeling all awkward and gawky and lonely and bored and too tall. Parallels were drawn with Federico Garcia Lorca’s House of Bernarda Alba, and To Kill a Mockingbird – another lazy, sleepy southern tale told from a child’s perspective, where the kitchen is the most vital room in the house and the black housekeeper/cook is the only mother figure around.

We talked about Carson’s crazy life – illness, suicide pacts with husbands etc, and wondered at how she found the time to actually write amidst so much drama. The Member of the Wedding might not be her most satisfying novel (that’s a tie between The Heart is a Lonely Hunger, which covers similar subject matter in a more substantial style, and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe), but there’s no denying her genius.

And so, having dealt with the ostensible reason for our ‘book club’ we segued worryingly easily into ‘salon’ mode, jumping from Frances Farmer (like Britney, committed by her parents!) to musing on the effect TV and mags have on our attention spans – we don’t seem to have the patience to stick with books that don’t grab us instantly. And why were there so many tortured female writers in the mid-20th century? Perhaps because they were pushing against boundaries in a way their foremothers hadn’t been able to, and their daughters didn’t need to, so it was a time of growing pains. **Just like Betty Draper! (woo first Mad Men reference of the evening)**

The we talked about embracing our inner Surrey-suburban middle classness, not being ashamed of it. And how we used to talk ‘street’ at school, until university when it became ok to rediscover your posh roots. (Anna-marie has evidence of this in a teenage video diary - impressive!) Must put on C.V. ‘Can talk posh.’

Our guilty confessions: what haven’t we read that we should have? I sheepishly admit having done a degree and MA in english literature without having ever read Pride & Prejudice or Wuthering Heights – oops! This waffle led into why it’s useful to channel jealousy and envy into productive outcomes – eg. Anna F. being sour-faced over her friend’s impressive reading list at school, and so stubbornly reading the entire works of Dickens over a year!

2nd Mad Men reference of the eve: Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is recommended reading at Sterling Cooper! (and did you know this is also the book Robbie the evil waiter in Dirty Dancing tells Baby she should read?!)

3rd Mad Men ref: I now can’t watch this show without a Martini in my hand. I am like Pavlov’s dogs :(

We ate: Grilled haloumi, Turkish bread and olives
We drank: cava
We wore: scarves! lots of scarves

N.B. This meeting of the Pamflet salon was so much fun and so useful, in terms of swapping stories, we are thinking about opening it up to a wider group and hosting it in a bigger, ‘proper’ venue (as opposed to our living rooms.) We like the idea of building up an informal network of girls/women who are independent creatives and want to share their skills and experiences and support each other. If you’re interested in joining in, email us at [email protected] Together we’re stronger! p.s. obviously there would be loads of food and fizz.

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