So here is the next wonderful piece of work on Necessary Fiction (so soon it will be over). Here’s my intro, as usual:
When you were little, did you want to run away and join the circus? Did you want to run away off into the night, scram out across the fields, trailing comets behind you? Come take a stranger’s hand and let the fairy tale, and the charmer (death?) take you beyond the tricks of the everyday, into an Angela Carteresque world.
I’m so glad to have been doing this, to have been sharing girl lit, literature by women, of women. I am privileged to say ‘here this is, read it’ to an audience. To think of the psuedo-course of literature with girlish concerns, otherwise marginalised. Yes, I can say marginalised, and there it says 2013 on my computer calender. I’m thinking of David Gilmour and his comments about never teaching women writers, because he doesn’t feel passionate about any of them (excepting V. Woolf), nor any Chinese Writers. And imagine who he isn’t teaching, has never read, who he hasn’t even thought to mention to exclude. And I think, yes, foolish. A foolish goat, now a scapegoat.
Because I think his attitude is by no means rare. Not in academia. How many comfortable, kindly, utterly blissfully shielded goats are there across the world in universities, ignoring the works they don’t like. Stuff written by people with perspectives different to their own, you know. Women, People outside the Anglo-American world. People from countries whose literary history they are uncomfortably ignorant of. They like challenging works, of course, don’t get me wrong. But it can’t be challenging in the wrong sort of way, you know. And preferably, the challenge should have been raised at least fifty years before. So the goat can find its feet.
Reading books is hard. Finding new voices and tuning ones ear. It requires a certain amount of energy. An openness which can at times feel like skinlessness. To read without discrimination – now, does that sound to you like reading without care to the writer, or to the content? It might seem the latter, to a goat.
I am not always the best reader. The number of books I have read is not great, the selection not as broad as it could be (I am ashamed in particular of my lack of attention to French works. To Hungarian. To South African. To, yes, Chinese works). But I’m trying. I’m like Ethan Hawke’s character in Before Sunrise, as the hokey old palm reader says, “He’s trying”.
Here’s to all those in university and college departments everywhere who are trying. Who share and remain willing and interrogative of their own self interest, who really listen. Who love words but not their own understanding of the words, of the authors, knowing to distrust this. The trying does not stop.
The reading, the searching. The rawness. The disturbance of reading. The instability of frameworks, angles, stories, voices, landscapes, techniques. It’s awe inspiring. The writing keeps coming. How can you ever cope? How can you ever be inclusive? You just keep trying. You ask. You listen. You read, and that is life and it does not stop. Gratitude is that we are making this vital stuff at all, and that you are bearing witness to it, in the hardest ways you can.