I agree that being a good writer is about empathy… among other things.
I hope I can believably write homosexual and non-white characters, and will continue to do so. But I’m a secondary source, not a primary source, and I should be aware of that. I’d be uncomfortable with someone saying I was the BESTEST writer of gay characters or characters of colour, and have writers who have lived experience ignored. As you say, Austen gets dismissed because people dismiss romance, ladies and comedy… these things are all part and parcel of each other.
There was no need for Eugenides to belittle Jane Austen while raising up Henry James, and moreover when you’re a dude writing a romance novel, I think you should be aware of the fact you are following in the footsteps of about a zillion women, and be respectful of the work they’ve done, and the advantages you, as a dude, have. In 2011, they found that The New York Review Of Books reviewed 71 female authors and 293 male authors. In The New York Times, it was 273 women and 520 men.http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2012/09/27/161885368/women-men-and-fiction-notes-on-how-not-to-answer-hard-questions
A dude can absolutely write about ladies and their experience of marriage. However, a dude who dismisses a lady in favour of another dude, without thinking about the fact his choices do not exist in a vacuum, isn’t displaying much empathy.
I think Eugenides is a great writer. I really enjoyed Middlesex. But I’m deeply unimpressed by the way he’s been handling this subject.
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