Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The throes of an invented situation.

Or obliterating discourse. Solidarity, solidarity.
"An unparalleled muse who carefully rendered complex female characters and their most intimate relationships, she left behind a literary legacy that testifies to our shared struggles and to the threadbare connection between art and life." - jacket copy from Counterpoint's 2010 Caroline Blackwood collection Never Breathe a Word

In the poet Honor Moore's 2002 introduction to a reprinting of Blackwood's novel Great Granny Webster, she cites that the novel was a finalist for the Booker Prize, but lost solely on the grounds that—according to the single man who voted against it—"a tale so autobiographical could not stand as fiction."

"…when women include themselves as a character in their own work, the work is read as autobiography. When men do it—say Milan Kundera or Paul Auster—it is read as metafiction….Men are imaginative. Women write testimony and confessional." - Jeanette Winterson's introduction to Essential Acker: the Selected Writings of Kathy Acker

In a 1968 interview with the Paris Review, in response to being asked why it took her thirty years to begin writing, Anne Sexton said "I didn't know I had any creative depths." Sexton's attending physician informed her that the value of her poems lay in what was springing forth without her knowledge—the secrets she was too damaged to appreciate, that she had any depths at all—and not the skill with which they were crafted.

"After she finished "Medusa," Plath realized how little its strategy resembled that of her other October poems. Unlike "Bees," in which apparent autobiography is really calculated melodrama, or "Daddy" and "The Applicant," in which apparent autobiography is really black farce, "Medusa" relies for success on its artful construction: an imagined narrator, placed in the throes of an invented situation, responds in direct and emotional language….At no stage in her career did Plath engage in writing strict autobiography. Yet the strained voice of "Medusa"'s narrator echoed the pain Plath felt as she wrote the poem." - Paul Alexander, Rough Magic: a Biography of Sylvia Plath
My senior thesis on the problem of autobiography in literature written by women would not have gotten an A if it hadn't been graded by a man who makes his students' fathers cry. "I had no idea that female writers faced such a problem," he explained, and I had to present a defense with all the brutal statistics. You had no idea? Holy shit.

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