Frankie, a young artist living in Dublin, has a breakdown and goes to live in her recently deceased grandma’s bungalow.
She starts a project photographing dead animals, setting rules for herself. She eats very little and drinks and rides her grandma’s bike and tests herself by trying to recall works of art related to her thoughts. “Today, I leave my bike behind and walk. I crave firmament beneath me. A steadier pace. A lower, slower view....Works about Lower, Slower views, I test myself: Richard Long, A Line Made by Walking, 1967. A short, straight track worn by footsteps back and forth through an expanse of grass.” Frankie recalls dozens of works, nearly all modern, helpfully listed at the end of the novel. Her commentaries are little snapshots of her psyche. Of Long, Frankie says, “He specializes in barely-there art. Pieces which take up as little space in the world as possible. And which do as little damage.” This aptly describes the way she is living. Baume (Spill Simmer Falter Wither, 2016) also offers glimpses of Frankie’s childhood and early adulthood. Through her thoughts and memories, it becomes clear that Frankie’s depression and anxiety have always been with her, even when she appeared to be functioning—an all-too-accurate portrayal of mental illness. “I tell myself that so long as I eat and sleep and wash and cycle and talk on the phone every other evening in an emotionally stable tone of voice, on emotionally stable subject matter, then she will not notice how nearly killed I am. But of course she does; she is my mother.” Baume writes lovely prose about unimaginable pain.
A cleareyed, beautiful rendering of a woman struggling against despair.