Thursday, May 18, 2006

literary thoughts

I am writing a novel.

For me, it's overpoweringly scary, because I can;t laugh it off as a hobby-- I do want to do this full-time-- and there's no assurance I'll ever get published, let alone be successful. But hey, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?

K. and I go to the library weekly. As a recent college grad and an aspiring author, I'm noticing that what I take home from the library has changed. I don't have to read anything for classes, but I avoid authors who-make-me-hyperventilate-into-my-pillow-crying-because-I'll-never-be-that-good (Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Munro (damn, Alice Munro), Alice Hoffman, and many more...luckily no new books from any of them lately). I like chick lit, and I take that home by the cartload. Bergdorf Blondes. Beyond Blonde. Good in Bed (one of the few well-crafted chick lit novels). I'm aiming slightly higher than these girls, so I can read them.

And then, there's the opposite end of the spectrum. I don't want my brain to entirely rot, so generally I take home one solid work of literature on every trip. Ann Beattie. Limpiri (sp?). And John Updike.

I have now read five John Updike novels, all based off the first one which I really liked (don't remember the title but I believe the man character's name was Henry.) And here's my conclusion: the man really, really doesn't like women.

Which is sad, seeming as he had four children with his first wife and is now married to another. And randomly, he's been supporting himself and his family as a full-time writer ever since he was in his mid-twenties, which I find enormously impressive, plus he's published gazillions of serious literary books-- also enormously impressive. But you know? I can't read him anymore. Yeah, I really enjoy where his mind sometimes goes, but after reading 3/4 of the Rabbit series, I just can't. Too much adultery and casual sex and a total disregard for women's emotional needs. Examples? Well, Rabbit and Janice have a tumultuous marriage in their 30+ years together, filled with affairs and separations and then finally in their middle age, a certain kind of peace. But sentiments like these-- I'm paraphrasing here-- revolt me. Rabbit looks at his wife and decides he needs to lay her soon, because she's getting all nervy, the way she does during dry spells.

Not his crudest, true, but the dispassionate and distant tone really turns me off. Plus Updike's comment about the mother of his children, whom he met at Harvard in the early 1950s-- the one where he says he got married to have sex, the way that people did back then. They divorced after 20ish years of marriage.

I'm disappointed. I got all invested in this man and his work, and then he just keeps digging up new veins of nastiness that poison his books for me.

If I get well-known, I pledge to use my pen for good, not evil.

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