On Harvey Weinstein, Sexual Politics and Science Fiction

Like lots of people, I’ve been thinking about all the accusations of sexual misconduct that have come spilling out into public notice ever since the Harvey Weinstein story broke – hardly six weeks, yet what feels a lifetime ago.  Like many women, I’ve wondered if we will look back on this historical moment as a paradigm shift in what is considered acceptable behavior.

It’s important to be realistic about the limits of such a shift. Some men will still behave like jerks, whether through groping, leering, impolite remarks, or rape. There will be still be painful, awkward episodes among all genders of misread social cues, attempted flirting gone horribly wrong, unreciprocated workplace crushes, etc.

But is it too far-fetched to imagine a world where the goal posts have moved? Where the default of people’s conduct and their expectations of other people’s is different than today? It’s a topic that science fiction has not ignored. Continue reading

Advertisements

‘How much of Jane Austen’s story is about sadness?’ A Q&A with novelist Paul Butler

At the recent JASNA AGM in Huntington Beach, Calif., one of the many interesting people I enjoyed meeting and talking to was Paul Butler, whose wonderfully inventive takeoff on “Persuasion” kept me enthralled the whole journey home. After reading “The Widow’s Fire,” (started in the LAX departure lounge, finished on the A train back in Brooklyn), I will never see Mrs. Smith or Captain Wentworth the same way again.  But it’s not a travesty — more of a radical rethinking,  a bit the way Jean Rys flips the narrative in “Wide Sargasso Sea.”

Mr. Butler has in turn done me the honor of reading my book and kindly invited me to answer some questions on his blog. Link here.

 

Reading While Human

This week I read a wonderful essay titled “Reading Jane Eyre While Black”  that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Not only does it compare two of 19th -century England’s most fascinating writers — Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen — but it hits on many of the issues I’ve been thinking about lately. About authorial intent, and how there will always  be something a little mysterious about it, even to the author. Also how as both readers and writers we bring our own biases, both the known and unknown, to the page.

Tyrese L. Coleman makes many interesting points along the way, but one key theme is how “Jane Eyre” has been ruined for her by Bronte’s depiction of Bertha Mason, whose craziness and evil is inextricably linked to her West Indian origins and implicit blackness. Continue reading

On Writing and Resolution

Here’s an article I wrote for my alumna magazine about publishing a novel in midlife.  I love the textured and slightly trippy illustration by Polly  Becker. Fitting, too, since ladies of 1815 were expected to spend a lot of time sewing — a requirement that nearly drove my heroine, Rachel Katzman, mad with boredom.

Thank you, Barnard, for giving me a platform — also an education!