I’m over at the Huffington Post today, blogging about the recent spate of “20 under 40” lists which include The New Yorker, the UK Telegraph and Dzanc Books. You can read the full post here. For now, an excerpt:
Is it really true that the trend is changing for female American novelists? In an article titled ‘How Old Can A Young Writer Be?,'(NYT Books, June 9, 2010), Sam Tanenhaus hammers home the so-called “essential truth about fiction writers… they often compose their best and most lasting work when they are young.” The giants Tanenhaus mentions include Ishiguro, Flaubert, Thomas Mann, Tolstoy, Proust, Fitzgerals, Kafka, Melville, Faulkner, Mailer, Updike, Pynchon and, of course, Hemingway. There is one woman in this list: Joyce Carol Oates. Those writers who matured into even greater novelists, according to Tanenhaus, include Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Don DeLillo and Virginia Wolf. I wonder if it occurred to Tanenhaus that the entire notion of producing not simply works of fiction — for, in truth, it is simpler — but entire cohesive family units and, hopefully, spiritually and physically nourished children within amply supported communities and schools, all of which has fallen predominantly upon the shoulders of women rather than men, might get in the way of women writers? His list alone ought to have given him a clue as to why most women produce their best work in later years. It has been said that raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens. I wonder how many of these male writers could truly produce great works of literature while undergoing death by chickens. I’m just saying.