The Velvet Chamber
An Anthology of Revisioned Myth and Fairy Tale

Explore the dark side of the female psyche --A CALL FOR WRITERS supports The Velvet Chamber

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hard drinkers, bad livers, and invalids

Excerpt from an Interview with Joan Didion, The Art of Fiction LXXI
The Paris Review, Inc., Vol 20, No. 74

What are the disadvantages, if any, of being a woman writer?

When I was starting to write-- in the late '50's, early 60's-- there was a kind of social tradition [myth] in which male novelists could operate. Hard drinkers, bad livers. Wives, wars, big fish, Africa, Paris, no second acts.  A man who wrote novels had a role in the world, and he could play that role and do whatever he wanted behind it.  A woman who wrote novels had no particular role. Women who wrote novels were quite often perceived as invalids [myth].  Carson McCuller, Jane Bowles.  Flannery O'Connor of course.  Novels by women tended to be described, even by their publishers, as sensitive...I just tended my own garden, didn't pay much attention, behaved-- I suppose-- deviously.  I mean I didn't actually let too many people know what I was doing.

Photo of Jane Bowles



  1. I'm glad this has changed. Or has it? Some days I want to write things that will change the world. Some days I want to make people laugh. Some days I just want to be published no matter what. Every day I'm the same flawed but basically decent creature who would drink too much if she could stay skinny and do it, who loves her kids, but doesn't always want to be a mother, who is a good wife when she feels like it, but would prefer to sleep around as a hobby....who really just likes to write, who has to write.

  2. I don't know that it has changed. I don't think women writers are necessarily perceived as invalids anymore, but executives in publishing still want a "girly" cover for a woman writer even if the book itself is edgy and not so girly. We're still perceived as damaged or flawed in some way, "sensitive" --- I love the "I'm still the same flawed but basically decent creature who would drink to much" As I enter into the 10th hour of a 16 hour day, a margarita would come in handy!