Sarah Long 1

I think I’ve gone and swallowed a critic and now I’m stuck being a right cunt to myself. I know people don’t like the word cunt. You might have preferred if I said bitch, as in a bitchy ‘criticality’ but bitchy implies some kind of joie de vivre—bitchy is no bad thing really. Bitchy is just knowing what’s what and laughing at it. A bitch laughs and she is happy—she has found the thing to laugh at (Jerry Saltz—bitch.) A bitch has fun, whereas a cunt just wants to watch the world burn, it wants to light the fucking match and doesn’t care who it takes down with it.

Can you read too many books? Or thought-provoking essays? Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe when I licked my thumb to turn a page and then licked my thumb to turn another page, I absorbed the voice through some kind of queer osmosis and once inside me the little voice ballooned and ballooned—into a fully grown cunt—and now she is pressing up against the inside of my skull, banging around and making quite a bit of noise.

Oh they are so lovely, those critics, when you first read them on the page, but once they get into a rhythm—if you let them get any kind of lyricism or drumming going at all—you start to feel their hot breath on your neck and the whole thing becomes uncomfortable. But then she just says, ‘Who the hell are you to be too good for discomfort? Everyone experiences discomfort in this life. Are you better than everyone else?’

And then I have to concede that ‘ya, I suppose I’m not really’ in a very small voice but then I’m not quite dead yet and something comes up from my boots and says, ‘yes but surely I shouldn’t suffer just for the pious sake of it. ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ is a lie they told us to keep us down. Nietzche told us that but the cunt bends down slowly, smug, and pulls a trump card out of the top of its sock and says, ‘Oh so you’re a revolutionary? Well revolutionaries have never achieved a real revolution in the entire history of man’, and slaps the gun out of my hand.[1]

And that hurts for a while, I sit, I lick my wounds, I cry—of course I fucking cry (‘are these performative tears?’ she will ask, petting a cat in her lap) but I’ll come back—I always do, I’m a fool’s fool—‘love is profoundly revolutionary’[2], and she will counter and then I will spit and she will delight in telling me the thing I read years ago and can’t shake from my head (‘We take for some sort of kindness addressed to us alone the banal desire for sex. We love his desire to fuck, we are so dazzled by it we think it’s the desire to fuck only us, us alone.’)[3] but I’ll say something like ‘to see someone who does not see is the best way to be intensely aware of what he does not see’[4] and then I think I’ve got her but she just snaps and says ‘everything is wrong and there’s no way to fix it and every time you try you just look fat and pretentious and fat and silly and fat and delusional and fucking fat.’ And you can’t argue with logic like that so you take to the bed, of course you do, you take to the bed and watch the Gilmore Girls and maybe you cry again, maybe you leave your body completely and just stare at yourself from above, but you’re out this time, you’re out for the count. R.I.P.

I would like roses, red delicious roses on my grave please and I don’t care if you play with the gravel with your foot as you stand there and pretend to pray so long as you look sad as you do.

I lie on my bed and listen to pop songs and decide what should be played at my funeral. I lie on my bed and I listen to glorious, glorious pop songs. Pop songs where I become ‘you’ and you become ‘I’ and I’m everyone’s ‘baby’ and then I hear it, the strong, folky voice of Stevie Nicks, ‘You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you’.[5]And it’s gorgeous sounding like true gospel gossip is. Here is the good word or at the very least a good word. Whether or not those lyrics were written in triumph or out of spite or with a vengeful glee it doesn’t matter one bit, they are true. ‘You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.’ My heart grows around each word and I skip the song ten seconds back twelve times in a row just so I can hear her say it again and again and again. ‘You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you’ The words leave the song and clog up my arteries. I can feel my pulse in my neck thumping irregularly, the critic is struggling to breathe. On the twelfth listen I rise from bed and grab a pink-covered book off the shelf. I flick through the pages until I find it, underlined in black gloopy pen, ‘…within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanisation, our feelings were not meant to survive.’[6] I lick the page and the ink runs a little bit. I lick the page and laugh. The words are wet and the page tastes wafer-like. I go gentle, I fall onto pillows and dream, while the critic slowly suffocates and dies.


Sarah Long is an artist and writer based in Cork City. Currently, she is Critic-in-Residence at Sirius Arts Centre, Cork. (2023) She is the editor of The Paper, an online publication of art criticism and art writing.


[1] Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, reprint edition (London: Faber & Faber, 2016) p. 14 Hannah Arendt called on us all to meet in a public place and voice our dissent.

[2] bell hooks. I don’t know where I read these words but I wrote them down in a notebook; ‘love is profoundly revolutionary—bell hooks’. I’ve scoured All about love: New visions for my trusty gloopy pen but I can’t find it. The words on my notebook page have a talismanic quality. A precious knowledge has been shared with me.

[3] Elena Ferrante, The Days of Abandonment trans. by Ann Goldstein, reprint edition (London: Europa Editions, 2021) p. 74. Maybe one day I’ll have the nerve to finish this book, I’ll join the circle of women who speak with such honesty, who laugh and mourn together. Maybe one day I’ll put on my big girl pants but for now it is these words that haunt me…

[4] Roland Barthes, ‘The Poor and the Proletariat’, Mythologies trans. by Annette Lavers, reprint edition (UK: Vintage Classics, 2009) p36. Barthes is describing Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp character as an anarchist in this essay. The tramp is a successful aesthetic of revolution.

[5] ‘Silver Springs’, Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (Remastered) (Warner Records, 2004) The track did not originally appear on Rumours 1977 release. Nicks wrote the song about her break-up from the band’s lead-guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham. Buckingham’s ‘break-up’ track ‘Go Your Own Way’ was included on the original release but rumour has it ‘You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you’ …This is the gossip we live for.

[6] Audre Lorde, Your Silence Will Not Protect You (UK: Silver Press, 2017) Your silence will not protect you… this is a call to gossip…