In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin unravels the belief of the spear as the earliest human tool. She writes: “[S]ixty-five to eighty percent of what human beings ate in [temperate and tropical] regions in Paleolithic, Neolithic, and prehistoric times was gathered; only in the extreme Arctic was meat the staple food.” The overrepresentation of the spear conveys the conflict-driven narrative of the hunter as hero. She de-centers the spear and re-centers that which holds: the carrier bag, the basket, the pouch, the stomach. A modality is expressed, one that better reflects Le Guin as a person and writer.
The author writes about the importance of “holding” in a life-affirming way. I read the text’s rejection of hierarchy as a caution against alienating the individual from the community. Our bodies hold our experiences, our experiences shape our perspectives, and our perspectives are useful to those around us. But, humans are messy. How do we hold this complexity with care—and subsequently, each other? It feels contradictory to take this up in writing as it can be a lonely, heart-opening practice. However, I do feel moments of possibility when reading collectively written texts: manifestos; community agreements; zines; anthologies.
Inspired by collective writing, I reached out to two friends and artists, Hannah deJonge and Natalie Cito, who both address “holding” in their work. Hannah tenderly contemplates the histories of form through varying practices such as quilting and genre-defying ceramic vessels. And memories of intimate dialogue with Natalie Cito affirm my love of novels. Her artistic practice mirrors her approach to life. Natalie’s visual creations represent journeys into women’s stories and histories.