"Doing Nothing With Friends Is Never Really Doing Nothing, Is It?" No, according to Charlie Mackesy.
Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is the finest tribute to friendship (and to hope and kindness) I have ever read. And it came at the right time - the outset of this B side heavy metal scifi album that's been playing on repeat for all us. It sold out a lot over the last 18 months, the first time before I could get it for my sister. The story begins with a lonely boy and a mole who likes cake gazing together out into the wild (which is life). In their wanderings they meet a wary fox, which is a complicated relationship for any mole. The fox's wariness comes from being hurt by life. They soon encounter a wise and gentle horse. (“The truth is everyone is winging it,” says the horse.) The very loose story (Mackesy says the book was written to allow y0u to begin on any page) is illustrated touchingly by Mackesy's delicate and emotional drawings. If this all sounds too slight, or irrelevant, it's not. (Or "Well, then God help you honey," as my Grandmother Jesse Louise used to say.)
Over the last year I started opening conversations with "are you feeling more boy, mole, fox or horse today?" to get the quick proxy on what a friend might need most in the moment. Since it was a fair assumption that we all needed something acutely. ("I hate my husband today," said one friend, "Are there any hateful characters in there?") I didn't have anyone to hate, since I spent much of the early pandemic living alone and cut off from friends or family, so I wavered between the boy myself (lost and lonely) and the fox (wary), but my close friend Maddie (who has a wicked sweet tooth and whose favorite bakery shut down) was in a constant state of craving, channelling the mole.
“What do you want to be when you up?” “Kind” said the the boy. The stories in The Boy reminded me of who I want to be and how I want to live. Of how much easier it was to tend to good friends when we were younger and not weighted down by so many pressing responsibilities. When "bandwidth" wasn't a word in all of our vocabularies. The Boy, too, often simply had me believing that I could endure "all this" (waving hands broadly). “One of the greatest freedoms is how to react to things.” There is so much wisdom here, I read it over and over. It brought some serenity to my acute aloneness, encouraged me to reach out (and not to any toxic exes - thank god - but rather to friends I'd love and lost touch with). It also encouraged me to take a leap, put myself out there and pursue a long-shot passion. Writing this Crush Letter to you. "We love you whether you can fly or not," said the boy. Thanks for that, Mackesy. And for being here, Crush readers. If you haven't read it yet, I hope you do.
And there’s this. “What’s the best thing you’ve learnt about storms,” asked the boy. “That they end,” replied the horse. We’re galloping towards that.
Mackesy shares his exquisite drawings on instagram here. Read more about Mackesy in recent articles in Graydon Carter’s AirMail, “A Boy A Mole A Fox and a Horse Walk Into Lockdown” and "Head in the Clouds".
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