Friday, October 08, 2010

Writing what you know

I will admit, however, to feeling irritated by Ted Hughes poems that are about Sylvia Plath. One reason for this is that I already have a whole lot of very good poems about Sylvia Plath to read, and they are by Sylvia Plath. The other reason is the same reason I occasionally refer to The Birthday Letters as You Guys, What About MY Feelings: The Point-Missing Chronicles. Which is where we actually do get into the Feminist Anger At Ted Hughes Thing. Which, as with much feminist anger, and many cultural phenomena, is not so much about a terribly sad thing that happened to one family as it is about the terribly sad things that happened to the people who heard about it. ... And it went like this:
You’re talented. You’re really talented. You might even be a genius. And your gentleman, he’s talented too, though not to the degree that you are. But you type his manuscripts. But you go to his lectures, you nurture his stardom, you play the part of his loving support and fan club. But you are responsible for his domestic comfort. Oh, you have your own successes. He even encourages those. But he’s the talent; he’s the big man; he’s the star. And then you get tossed over, for someone who is nowhere near as talented and spectacular as you, because it turns out that the talented, spectacular part of you, the part that you thought made you a couple in the first place (“we kept writing poems to each other,” was how Plath described their courtship, “then it just grew out of that, I guess, a feeling that we both were writing so much and having such a fine time doing it, we decided that this should keep on”) was never enough to keep him interested. Was never essential to him, the way it was to you. Was never a part of the purpose of you — because he doesn’t need talent or spectacular qualities in girls, apparently. Because he prefers his girls to lack those. So you wind up with all the responsibilities — the kids, the house, the cleaning, the cooking — while he goes off to be a genius for some other girl who’s way more suited to play a supporting part in his life story. Who doesn’t have within herself the potential to eclipse him, to be the one that the story is actually about; who’s safer, that way. You wind up writing all your work — your work, your amazing work, your genius — at four in the morning before the kids wake up. Because that’s the only time you can write it. Because that’s what women do.
If The Fountainhead had been a story about Nick Francon and Holly Roark, I'd have been a happier and better adjusted teen.
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