You may have noticed that this post carries the same title as the book by Fay Weldon that I've been reading last week. If you haven't, this entry might be a disappointment (or a relief?), for it will not deal with men trapping me. Instead, it's a tiny review.
At first, I couldn't find the book at Border's, because it wasn't in the fiction department, but on a shelf with autobiographies. One can read it as a self-help-book in creative writing too, which is what I did at first. But perhaps Fay's own view on what she's doing is even more appropriate: she's writing in a new genre: the reality novel. “Reality TV is real life lived out in a fictional context (the House): the reality novel threads the life through the fiction. Have my fiction, have me.” (p. 20)
In short, it's a pastiche of fiction, autobiography and some advice on how to write. That's a dreadful description, though. It doesn't sound coherent at all, while the book actually is one clear, consistent piece of writing. What is it, then, that binds all these different aspects so firmly together? I think the uniformity of this book springs from one central theme: identity.
Characters keep creeping into her story. She can't deny them access, it seems, even though she realizes that it tends to get confusing when she introduces too many of them at the same time. “Characters are meant to be introduced slowly, one by one, so readers can get used to them. You are meant to be kind to your readers, not defy them.”(p. 86) To help out her readers she recaps once in a while and prints their names in bold. However, when she tries to pin her characters down like this, they defy the authority of the GSWITS (the Great Script Writer In The Sky, p. 78). Some of them swap souls, while it's not even clear what a soul is. Others change their names or are married to someone without having a common language to communicate. And what exactly is the relationship between actual husbands and children, and the ones we meet in the autobiographical patches? The way I see it, the core of the book is Fay wondering: “who am I?”
Apparently, that's what readers demand these days. “Self-revelation is required. Too often readers cry out for bread and are given stones: writers fail them, fob them off with thrillers, good guys on the political left, the bad guys on the right. Or chick lit, first-person tales in the present tense leavened by wisecracks, feeble emotions if nifty enough plots.” (p. 18)
Without knowing it, Fay puts her finger on the spot when it comes to my attempt to write fiction in English. I've been warned a thousand times (at least!) that I will not be able to master the English language sufficiently in order to say exactly what I mean. “You will never understand proverbs and the British cultural aspects that natives have picked up during their childhood,” people keep telling me. But if they don't believe in me (they think I'm not smart enough!) I don't see any reason why I should believe them. Sure, it's a challenge, but I'm confident that I can manage – so I give them the cold shoulder.
But Fay draws my attention to something else, something deeper. As an author, I can communicate directly with innumerable readers. But why should they spend their valuable time on me and not on any random writer? What have I got to offer them, that nobody else can furnish them with? Nothing but my humble self. If I'm lucky, they'll want a piece of me. And perhaps Oudemans was right, when he broached that this unique intricacy, preceded and shaped by my mother tongue, can only be expressed properly in the language it springs from.