The title of Jane Silcott’s debut memoir Everything Rustles (Anvil $18) is drawn from a Sophocles quote, “To him who is in fear everything rustles.” According to publicity materials, “Here is love, grief, uncertainty, longing, joy, desire, fury, and fear. Also wandering bears, marauding llamas, light and laundry rooms. This isn’t a how-to guide to middle age and it’s not a collection of memories either – for one thing, the author can’t remember that much – for another, she’s more interested in the places where the raw bones of the personal intersect with the wider world.” 978-1-927380-41-3

[BCBW 2013]

Everything Rustles by Jane Silcott (Anvil Press $18)
Review (2013)

from Heidi Greco

Jane Silcott is a feminist and makes no apologies for this stance in Everything Rustles, a collection in which she writes honestly about hormones and menopause and giving birth—the many transitions women’s bodies go through—as a woman, mother, wife, teacher; all those multi-tasking roles so many of us play.

In keeping with her feminist resolve, Jane Silcott serves as a ‘practice patient’ for “nurses, midwives and naturopaths as they learn to do pelvic exams.” I bet many of us, even those sure of ourselves and confident in our bodies, would hesitate to climb the table, spread our legs for a parade of strangers, especially when they’re strangers bearing instruments they intend to poke us with.

Please though, don’t mistake her book for some gynecological showcase. It’s about seeing beauty in the world, getting along with your husband even when he refuses to argue back, trying not to swear in front of your kids when they’re little. Or, even harder, getting used to the idea that those same perfect kids might not love you any more when they reach their teens.
Everything Rustles is also about trying to get by as well as you can in a world that sometimes seems so crazy you want to scream, and how important it is, in the midst of it all, to look and to see and to appreciate.

The characters she sketches are so clearly defined, they practically cast shadows. Many of them will seem familiar as neighbours, loud talkers in coffee shops, fellow travellers of various sorts. Or, my favourite, the fellow in Gastown she refers to as “Lurching Man.”

Although Silcott is clearly rooted in urban Vancouver, it’s during some of her camping trips that many of her most wonderful observations occur. While this may in part be due to being away from the day-to-day routine, camping trips also do present her with some out-of-the-ordinary situations—being lost as well as being near at hand for what the park ranger calls “an incident of domestic violence.”

While the word “rustle” comes up regularly throughout the book, it’s a camping trip that provides one of the resonating sparks that makes the book’s title so memorable. Lying under the stars beside her husband, she hears a rustling sound near her head. Her mind races through the list of possibilities, and when she turns on her flashlight, she’s confronted by a pair of eyes which she immediately believes must belong to a snake. As it turns out, the eyes aren’t those of a snake, though the point is made: there’s a reason we’re alert to all those rustlings around us. If a thing is alive, it rustles. And this book definitely rustles.

Some days it seems as if every body’s writing their memoirs. Although Everything Rustles has been classified as “memoirs,” I suspect that’s more to accommodate the world of marketing niches we’re now all supposed to squeeze into, as it seems much more to be a book of essays than memoirs. Sure, the essays are based in the author’s personal experiences, but they read more as thought-inducing contemplations—in some cases, meditations—than recollections of a life lived. But what they are doesn’t matter so much as that they are. That’s how 978-1-927380-41-3

Heidi Greco is a poet and community organizer in Surrey.