Friday, December 17, 2004

Men Writing Women (again)

The following I've clipped from Terry Teachout's Blog:

I’ve also received several different versions of the following letter, which was inspired by a passing remark I posted the other day:

"I’m one of those unfortunate folk who is allergic to most of the Major American Novelists who came of age in the Fifties. Roth, Bellow, Mailer, Updike: all leave me cold as last month’s fish."

To which an old friend whom I haven’t seen in far too long replied:

"So liberating to read your admission of an allergy to "important" 50's-burgeoned Major American Novelists Roth, Bellow, Mailer, Updike, all of whom I have tried to "appreciate" and detest...mainly because I couldn't respect them due to their awful lack of ability to create memorable, fully realized female you suppose that a possible reason for your allergy is that you are, like your beloved Balanchine, a Man who Loves Women?"

As you can see, the author of this particular e-mail knows me very well. For as long as I can remember, all but a handful of my closest friends have been women, and it thus stands to reason that I'd tend to find women-unfriendly writers tedious. What’s more, I can think of several less-than-important novelists (Elmore Leonard comes to mind) whom I enjoy in part because their women characters are both "fully realized" and extremely likable.

I do like some of the male 1950's authors, but agree that they can't do women very well. They tend to do idealized types instead of full-fledged characters. Roth in The Ghost Writer, for example, presents an Anne Frank who mananged to survive to adulthood as the perfect mate for the modern jewish man. All symbol, no character.

All interesting to me, because I'm still struggling with my story set from the point of view of a woman. Four versions later, I'm still not happy with it. I don't know if it's disheartening or encouraging that those more brilliant than me couldn't do it well, either. Perhaps it's time to set it aside for awhile for other projects, and come back later. I have a werewolf story I want to write, and another about a guy who eats a television set.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

Guy who eats a television set. Heh heh! That's great!

This is so interesting. Hmm. You've taken on a really difficult task -- to write from a POV of the opposite sex. Actually, I guess I'm echoing myself in saying, that I have only written from a male POV once (I know I've made this comment before). However, most of my short stories have secondary male characters, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're as flat as those female characters from the 50s-era male authors.

Maybe I should work on this. It actually provides me with food for thought -- like exactly why this is, for God's sake, ha. It's nothing I've really ever thought to change about my work.

Hebdomeros said...

It's possible I'm being too hard on myself, but I keep reading it and thinking "a woman wouldn't react like that." So I scrap it, try another scene, and yell at it some more. I'm usually pretty good and putting myself in other people's shoes, so to speak. I could probably get away with it if the piece was more action or concept oriented, but this piece is all about character. Makes it harder.

Motivations for guys are easy to write. But then, I am one.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Honestly, you're probably doing better than you think. Maybe you could run it by your female friends and see if they think you've got it down or if they have any suggestions to better it.

Hebdomeros said...

Most likely I'll end up blending details from all the versions into one. My last one I set in an art museum I used to work at, and it seems to work the best. After I get it typed up, I'll pass it around to a few select friends.