Monday, October 18, 2010

More about that memoir I talked about yesterday

The book is At Home in the World. It is by Joyce Maynard, and the man who sucked her into his realm of total adoration was J.D.Salinger. (I hasten to say no physical abuse was ever involved here, not that its absence lessens his crime.) Do read it if you can get hold of it. It's fascinating and Maynard is a fine and honest writer.

Here are some extracts from what Maynard herself said about the furore it generated:

"It appeared that to many of my critics the sole significant event of my life had been sleeping with a great man. This was disheartening not just personally, but for what that portrayal of me and my story indicated about those writers’ perceptions of women. One day I hope some feminist scholar will examine the way in which a woman’s recounting of her history is so often ridiculed as self-absorbed and fundamentally unimportant…"

"… I believe it is a measure of the hostility toward women is still deeply woven into the texture of our culture that when female writer gives voice to the struggles that are the stuff of women’s lives, she is so often dismissed as emotional, self indulgent, and trivial. One need not look far for examples of male writers who have written freely and with no small measure of self-absorption about the territory of personal experience, who are praised for their courage and searing honesty…"

"…The pursuit of privacy has been portrayed by many as evidence of purity of character, just as the refusal to bow to the genteel notion of secret-keeping has been depicted as inappropriate and invasive—a profound betrayal of trust. I have come to believe that sometimes what is truly inappropriate and invasive are certain activities on the part of the very individuals who will later invoke their sacred privacy as a cloak for the concealment of their behavior. To suggest that an individual enjoys immunity from scrutiny or accountability for his actions because he holds some position of power (whether as a priest, a professor, a politician, or a man of great wealth or accomplishment) is to clear the way for the exploitation of the very people most vulnerable to influence and manipulation—generally, the young. There lies the true betrayal of trust…
…So long as we question a woman’s right to her own story, we allow the perpetuation of the same dangerous and damaging patterns generations before us experienced."

2 comments:

Jo said...

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the comments you selected. Abuse of power in any context is deplorable and endeavouring to cover it with that same power is despicable.

saare-snowqueen said...

One need not look far for examples of male writers

Phillip Roth - for example, whose work I loath for this reason.