Vermeer’s Portrait of a Lady Writing
With a title like “Women Writers,” one might expect some heavy duty mansplaining about how women don’t really understand what life is about. Well, you won’t find it here. Even though, in the past, I have complained about fiction written by women being too “relationshippy,” I am beginning to appreciate the vision of the better women writers. Oh, there are plenty of distaff hacks, but I’m not talking about them here.
I have over the last few months read several novels written by women that managed to rock my world. They include:
- Olga Grushin, The Dream Life of Sukhanov
- Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers
- Anne Bronte, Agnes Grey
- Virginia Woolf, Orlando
- Marie NDiaye, La Cheffe and My Heart Hemmed In
- Tara Westover, Educated
Consequently, what I have decided to do is devote the entire month of March to reading about a dozen books by women authors, half by authors I have never read before, the other half by old favorites such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates, Charlotte Bronte, and Patricia Highsmith. I haven’t decided which books yet, but there’s time to put the list together and let you know.
Currently, I am working my way through Olga Grushin’s The Dream Life of Sukhanov, a novel written in English by a Russian writer about a Soviet art magazine editor in the mid-1980s whose life comes unglued because of all the changes that are taking place just before the collapse of the Communist Party. At one point, the main character, Anatoly Pavlovich Sukhanov, muses to himself: “No, never again would he dare to accept any certainty with that bovine sense of simply receiving his due….”
Similarly, I plan to reject that similar “bovine sense” of underestimating women writers as a matter of course.