The Revenge of Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’

WARNING: This review/essay/outpouring of love contains spoilers

The night before going to see Greta Gerwig’s Little Women I accidentally made my housemates sit through the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility. I’d made the bold assumption that, since I’d already seen the movie half a dozen times, it could play in the background as we continued our conversation. The movie is two hours and 20 minutes. We watched all of it, shouting at the characters, sighing at their pre-heartbreak stupidity, and getting far too invested in the lives of people with names like Willoughby. Fucking Willoughby. I’ve always found the experience of watching my favourite period dramas comparable to the experience of reading them: at first I’m distracted by the prettiness of it all, then I’m scandalised, heartbroken, and so, so in love. All despite the stilted speech, the restricting costumes, and the politics.

There’s much more warmth in the latest version of Little Women. It’s far easier to love, and to explain your love for. Physical interactions between the characters are just as important as spoken interactions—they leap into arms, kiss foreheads, shove, tackle, and punch. I know it’s set decades and a world away from the Pride and Prejudice I’m so familiar with, but having fallen for period dramas through Austen, where touching hands without gloves is a plot-changing, tension-rising moment, the loving physicality of Little Women feels illicit.

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All I Try To Remember When the Sun Goes Down

sitting upright in bed in the dark of night

leant against a pile of pillows

which becomes my spine, a small relief

in the worst of times

reminds me of winter colds

when I was young and congested

and Mum was a room away

with the simplest solution to suffering:

deep breaths, get comfortable

think of sleep and think of peppermint

Space Law

The world’s first artificial satellite was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. Sputnik 1 weighed in at 83.6 kilograms and took about an hour and a half to orbit the Earth, beeping as it went, visible to anyone with good eyesight or binoculars.

The launch caught the American people off guard, though it wasn’t news that the Soviets were working on satellites, just as the US was at the time. The period between July 1957 and December 1958 had been designated the International Geophysical Year, when the 11-year cycle of sunspot activity was at its highest. It was an ideal time to launch. Science writer Willy Ley wrote of the public’s apparent shock:

“If someone tells me that he has the rockets to shoot… and tells me what he will shoot, how he will shoot it, and in general says virtually everything except for the precise date—well, what should I feel like if I’m surprised when the man shoots?”

Still, given the context of the time, it was menacing. Sputnik 1 cut across the American sky several times a day. If you hadn’t been an avid reader of Aviation Week, or if you’d skipped the June 20 edition of the New York Times in 1957, you wouldn’t have known the Soviet Union even had a satellite program, and you would have known nothing of its intentions. It was the middle of the Cold War. The arms race was well underway; people were building bomb shelters and practicing attack drills in schools. It was feared the technology that launched the satellite could be used to launch ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons.

Sputnik 1 orbited for three weeks before its battery died. It burned up in the atmosphere on January 4 of 1958, and weeks later the United States successfully launched its own satellite, Explorer 1. The race for space was on.

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The Medicine Cabinet

Her grey hair floated on the still water, twisting from roots to tendrils and dancing towards the rocks. Her navy blouse was dark and heavy with water, pressing against her stomach and weighing her down. Water lapped at her sneakers, but above her were green leaves and a sunrise peeking through the foliage.

“Maude?”

She looked for her husband and there he was, blinking at her from the inside of a tree, his cheeks shining under a bathroom light. She could see parts of him—his face, his neck, his shoulders, the leather pilot’s jacket he’d insisted on wearing. Not the rest of him—the shiny shoes he only ever pulled out for mourning, his pressed pants.

He watched her through the medicine cabinet in their bathroom, where there was an ordinary basin and toothbrushes, a bath. A plastic stool in the shower, a metal railing beside the toilet seat. But on her end of the medicine cabinet there was a forest.

“How’d you get in there?” he said. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“George.” She smiled at him, only to turn back to the trees swooping overhead.

“I was looking for the Antivert,” he said. “My heads gone funny.”

He poked his head through the medicine cabinet to scan the grass beneath. An assortment of tubs and boxes were scattered over the ground, each one medicine-white and glistening with dew.

“Is it by the toadstool?”

“No,” he said.

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Bedroom

I wouldn’t so much mind if

this room were a world: there’s

enough sunlight to feed the plants and

plenty of rain to sustain me and

the door only closes to, allowing inside

the snores of my housemate, the mewl

of a cat, all the while I move from one

continent to the next, (chair, bookcase,

fireplace, desk) content to remain

just this way

until someone rings a doorbell

I refuse to answer…

Forest Unknown

I am most proud of who I used to be

and never more scared of who I am

becoming—all I can offer my past or

my future is disbelief, the promise

of pretty trees, and a love that skims

the surface only for fear of what lies

beneath

but the roots are strong, there is hope

of streams and cold mornings, a place

where the breeze finally touches the trees

and proves me wrong

where I will hear the wind change and

smile for it, cutting my hand on a severed

branch, a bloodletting, a scar

altering my path