If I had more time, right now I would write an essay. I do not have time, so I am writing a post here, off the top of my head. Here we go.
today there will be an uproar over the fact that David Gilmour dropped this little beauty into an interview.
I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.
The whole interview is a prize. This is just a piece.
All I’m saying is, it’s 2013. And there are people going on about this all the time (me among them), and I know everyone is bored of the whole “but women writers!” thing. (Or some people are.) And some people don’t believe there is really a problem with how women are treated in literature—that the whole thing is an imaginary problem dreamed up by people who have nothing better to do.
But I stand here as someone with a stupid MFA from an Ivy League school, and I’ve been a published author for ten years, and I’ve been with a bunch of publishers, and I’ve talked to thousands of people— librarians, teachers, readers, booksellers, non-readers, pundits, bloggers, agents, editors—about this problem or just about publishing and I can tell you, from all this research that I never intended to do that there most certainly is a difference.
I didn’t really think about it before I ended up in publishing. I read basically only guys, and it just never dawned on me that that was weird. But then I started to write, and I went to school for writing, and I got into the business and I started to see that all animals were equal but some were more equal than others.
To which I say, okay, fine. I get it. Because I know your problem.
Literature is kind of full of assholes.
And that is okay. Some great books have been written by assholes. I am looking at my shelf and it is full of beloved books by known assholes, and that’s fine. Assholism is one of the most common afflictions of literature. Certainly literature and writing programs are full of them. They are like wildlife refuges for assholes.
I realize that I have simply equated someone who says they don’t teach books by women* because they simply don’t like enough women writers with being an asshole. I could have said many other things. Like it was ignorant, or strange in its selectivity. I went with asshole, and I feel good about this choice. When you dismiss the writing of about half the people in the world (unless we also address the “or Chinese,” so we can up that percentage, as China is the most populous country in the world) … I think we can all agree that you suffer from a debilitating case of “I pick the important things and I wear a crown!” You might study the reflection of your own behind in a mirror and, while glancing over your shoulder, blow yourself a kiss.
I get it.
I mean, having the gumption to write anything at all and then think that thing is worthy enough for other people to read … you have to get into a certain headspace to be a writer. Some of us have to worm our way in through a tiny hole, and some of us are born in that space, and it swells around us like a palace. LOOK AT ME, these people say. AND LISTEN, FOR I AM SO GREAT.
Assholes is what I mean.
I think my point, if I have one, is that we shouldn’t get distracted by David Gilmour. It’s hard, because that quote is a diamond. It’s hard to stop looking at it. And yes, it’s an example of the fact that this reality of the “awesome male writer” is so deeply entrenched that some people come out with things like this in interviews. And other people are smart enough not to say such things in interviews, but work under that assumption anyway. This attitude is out there, and it’s such a background sound that some of these guys can’t even hear it over the sound of their own melodious voices.
And it’s hard not to seem like a screaming suffragette** when discussing this. The more time I spend online looking at these debates, the more I think that I want to find a better way to work for an answer than just writing posts.
I will continue to read the works of assholes. I do not discriminate. We all have our faults, and there is good in everyone. And you can be an asshole in life and somehow distill something good and pure by pushing it through the grit in your system.
But yeah, it’s 2013 and this is still a thing. But in the end, it’s just a guy being very silly in an interview, and thus making it easier to call him for what he undoubtedly is. If only more assholes would do so, it would make things a lot easier.
In sum, please read works by women.
And don’t worry about assholes too much. They will look after themselves.
* actually he said a lot of other things which made it easier to get to “asshole”
** though this would not bother me as I enjoy both screaming and suffragettes