Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
“Countless decisions I’ve made about what to write and how to write it have been in acquiescence to the opinions of the white male literati.” — Claire Vaye Watkins
Have you read the Tin House essay, “On Pandering,” by Claire Vaye Watkins yet?
I read it and started getting kind of upset. Watkins has a lifetime of catering to male standards and values, and it seems a white male writer named Stephen Elliott was a dick to her once, so.
As George Carlin might put it, I happen to be a white male writer.
As I started to craft a pithy post about how all of us in the lit-biz have to pander to one degree or another, I realized that I understand where Watkins is coming from so why should I try to contradict her? All white males aren’t dicks, and some women are dicks. It’s a big wide world. And the lit-biz, at the top levels where they dish out Pulitzers and National Book Awards, is dominated by men. Women get short shrift in the “seriousness” sweepstakes. It’s true that many popular female writers happen to write light and breezy novels with relationship themes (and if I were a woman, Occasional Soulmates would certainly fall into that category), but a number of them also write serious books about much larger themes. Heidi Julavits comes to mind. Rachel Kushner. A.M. Homes. Jane Smiley. Lots of them. (Almost forgot — Smiley did win the Pulitzer for A Thousand Acres.)
Read the piece and chime in, if you like. It’s a big issue. Watkins makes some deeply uncomfortable points and she raises hackles all around. But as a man who just published a book about three hundred women taking matters into their own hands and forming their own society, I don’t care to be tossed into the same dick-tub as Stephen Elliott.
And, with reference to the Salon column that talks about the essay, I have read Bridget Jones’s Diary!