Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Are writers who are women allowed...?"

Ed Champion recently interviewed Lynne Tillman for his Bat Segundo Show . (The interview can be downloaded as a podcast, from iTunes.) In the interview, Tillman talks, among other things, about striving, in her fiction, to marry emotion to intellect.

At one point in the interview, Tillman discusses a rejection of an essay-like short fiction from an editor who, Tillman thought, would never have said what she said to Tillman to a male writer. The editor, Tillman, says, “exposed her bias.” “I just thought it was disgusting, frankly.” The question the rejection poses for Tillman is: "Are writers who are women allowed to play with ideas the way men writers are-- writers like Nicholson Baker, for instance-- are they allowed to do that?"

Ed Champion then wonders if creating a neurotic female narrator is not allowed-- the way a male neurotic narrator, as in Moby Dick, is.

"Allowed," in this conversation, references a gender double standard that, I think, attaches to itself unspoken, unstated, and thus very powerful rules resulting from what I think of as the issues surrounding intelligibility, in which the View from Nowhere strikes again.

Later, Tillman asks “What do we read for?” And she and Champion discuss that. She also observes a cultural shift since the 1980s-- “a disappearance of shame”-- driven by an idea(l) of openness, in which individuals attempt to tell everybody about everything, while often not knowing the full implications of what they're saying. (I flashed, during this part of the discussion, on a certain episode of House.)

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