The Days Were Long and the Years Were Longer

The Days Were Long and the Years Were Longer

Kate Zambreno dedicated “The Light Room” to her daughters.Credit…Anna Resmini THE LIGHT ROOM , by Kate Zambreno We find ourselves in the age of Covid literature. The publishing cycle, notoriously long, has caught up with the pandemic, and a book on the subject no longer seems like a novelty. But like the pandemic itself, the genre is still slippery. Are we at its height? Will it come back, in some new variant? How scared should we be? Kate Zambreno's elegant contribution to this growing body of work is the “The Light Room.” Her ninth book, it records roughly two years, from the fall of 2020, shortly after her second child is born, through the summer of 2022, when her two daughters have returned to a recognizable childhood. Most of the observations take place either from the 's shabby couch (when she teaches over Zoom, she uses a towel to hide the hole the dog has scratched in a cushion) or in Prospect Park, with other Brooklyn parents who are trying to keep their children busy, with birthday parties and makeshift “forest schools.” Often, Zambreno is breastfeeding her baby or witnessing a tantrum and — despite the best efforts of her partner, John — feeling depressed. At one point, driven to her own meltdown while John tries to find a parking spot, Zambreno steps out of the car at a stoplight and walks away. Later her daughter delights in repeating, “I'm DONE, Mommy said.” This is a book about the aloneness of motherhood — the limits of maternal attention, the dissolution of self, the mind-numbing tedium of raising small children — as much as it is about the pandemic. It's a book about a “life inside” — not just inside the home, but inside the mind. Zambreno's is sharpest, most emotionally alive, when it drills into that interior landscape. Sitting on a park bench with her infant in the winter, she writes, “I briefly allow myself a spasm of feeling miserable and contained. Allowing myself that self-pity feels close to freedom.” At the margins of “The Light Room,” […]

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