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  • Published: 12 April 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761043550
  • Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $34.99

Mothertongues

Extract

Christmas Eve. I’m sitting in Cafe Flore in San Francisco. I am twenty-three. Here are some things I want to accomplish in my life.

I want to become more self-reliant, know myself in some profound new ways. Learn to listen and honour what I am. I am afraid and holding back. I want to make the decision to release and become a good actor. I want to have a committed relationship with someone I love, who also loves me. I don’t want to ever feel bad for loving someone again. I want to get my car paid off. I want to have a baby by the time I’m thirty. Or not too far past thirty.

Do you think it’s possible?

To make the future happen, you have to use up the precious present.

Reasons to sleep with J:

  1. I can’t stop thinking about it.
  2. I feel like it.
  3. I like him a whole lot.
  4. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Reasons not to sleep with J:

  1. Feeling uncomfortable later.
  2. He’s twenty-two.
  3. He might tell everybody.
  4. There’s nowhere to do it (inconvenient).
  5. He’s tall. The theory of tall men.
  6. Might compromise our friendship.
  7. He’s a serious depressive and might not be emotionally available to deal with the situation responsibly.
  8. He just got dumped and that’s complicated.
  9. He likes that dumb book I hate.
  10. There was a number 10 and I can’t remember it.

Special skills from my acting résumé: Unarmed Stage Combat (certified), Fluent French, Flying Trapeze, Triathlon.

Dialects: American (Standard and Regional), British (RP, ARP, Cockney), Irish, Eastern European, French, American Southern.

Twenty-Something Journal Mash-up It was all the ones
I’ve thought of as possible friends.
It was lovely but I was exhausted from my adventures, driving in the dark.
I kept dreaming I was about to hit people;
told them, jokingly, I was a traitor
and so alone, frozen with fear.


Friday night.
Cooked zucchini the way Mom makes it and it made me miss her.
I have this big blister on my lip:
physical sign of my depression.
I don’t know if I can be an artist if this is what it takes!
I have been craving being a little girl again, being looked after,
like when Mom gripped my hand so tight her ring left an imprint on my fingers.
For the rest of my life I will have to fend for myself.
It’s time to go away somewhere: I don’t belong here.
Halloween eve, leaning out my window
watching rats run around and feast on garbage.
An unusually warm night, with bright stars.
What a blessing        
to catch your fantasies in midair
and spin them into reality.

She says that I’m a curious person
and that to be curious is to put oneself in danger.
The next day I felt something was different; I felt human again.

I’ve been filming a national commercial for a hardware store, walking around in front of a green screen, pushing a cart, pointing at things. Then they added special effects, like an aisle of tinsel exploding into fairy dust. This guy called Brad played my husband, and we had to meet at McDonald’s on 10th Avenue at 4.30am to be driven to the set in New Jersey.

The second day of the shoot, I got a phone call from my theatrical agent. She was dropping me.

I had some euros left, a few coins. I spent them on a can of Amstel, one chicken wing and an apple tart.

When I was an infant, Mom went to live in Mass General Hospital and I went to live with Grandma. Dad and my sister travelled to Boston as often as they could. Sometimes I didn’t seem to know who he was.

Dad was in the middle of it, back then, when Mom was sick all those years, and he didn’t know what to do. He had two young children and a wife he couldn’t leave alone. At one point he couldn’t really go to work. He took Mom with him in the car to drop something off with his boss, and his boss wanted to have a long conversation, and he had to interrupt to say, ‘Al, she’s suicidal.’ By this stage, my sister was twelve, and I was three. A guy at Grace Church, a doctor, intervened. He talked to the priest and to Mom. Finally, her doctor referred her to a psychiatrist and she went to the infamous 7 West at Sibley, where Washington celebrities go when they’re crazy.

Dad suffered a lot. He didn’t know what he was up against, or that it could ever possibly work out. He’s very good at keeping on keeping on.

That was how we understood things then, anyway.

A girl I knew in college looked at me and said, ‘Did your mom do a lot of drugs when she was pregnant with you?’

I said, ‘Yeah, just pot, I think. Why?’

She said, ‘You have really small teeth and that’s a sign.’

It’s been snowing for thirty-six hours. I’m so homesick for Sydney. My car is buried in Allston, and I should go get it out, but I don’t have a shovel.

In drama school, I learn about tactics.

In preparing to perform a role, one approach is to think about what the character wants and what tactics they’re using to get it. A char­acter’s tactical vocabulary is the set of things they habitually do to get what they want in life, though in moments of pressure they may do unexpected things, which is exciting to watch.

Laura in The Glass Menagerie would never demand or berate, for instance. She just wouldn’t. It would be ridiculous to play her that way. Preparing to play her involves eliminating what she isn’t.

My teacher says that we like watching professional sport because it’s played by people who do creative and skilful things to achieve a goal. Conflict is naturally built into that. It’s the same with acting. It’s disciplined, focused on getting the job done. As an actor you need to know what the goal is and focus completely on that, not on the self.

When we see actors focused on getting what their character wants, really checking in on whether it’s working, and responding in the moment to what’s happening in order to adjust their strategy and score, we love it. We believe it. We believe in it.


Mothertongues Ceridwen Dovey, Eliza Bell

A genre-defying, collaborative marvel that brings the absurdity of motherhood to the page.

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