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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Couldn’t Keep It to Myself

Leanne's purchase of Couldn't Keep It to Myself reminded me of how much I used to hate Wally Lamb. I read She's Come Undone when I was in college (or so), right when I was discovering feminism. Neophyte feminists--hell, neophyte anyones--are always the worst. Railing against the injustices of the world with a blind eye to nuance. "Women in angst" books bothered me, period. But when a man thought he could write about the female experience, about the intricacies of being an exploited, traumatized, overweight teenage girl? In my angry mind, I thought, "How dare he?" Men already held the power to most things in the world, and now they were trying to take over the female experience, too?

(And my feelings were intensified by the fact that I also just plain disliked the book.)

From the writer side of me, I realized that writing solely from one's own experience would greatly stifle creation. And while I personally have never had luck writing beyond my experience, that's probably due more to my limitations as a writer, and not the fact that one shouldn't write beyond her experience.

So I recognized my irrationality regarding Wally Lamb, but then I decided he just wasn't a very good writer.

But then one day, a friend gave me Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters, short stories from a women's writing group that Wally Lamb led in a prison in Connecticut. The stories were amazing, heart-breaking, well-written. The work that he did with the women gave me new respect for him, and I realized that maybe he did have enough cred to write about the female experience. Or maybe, now that I'm older, I can see the world in a little more grey, and not so much black and white. Or maybe I just like it when anyone is an advocate for women, regardless of their gender.

But he's okay by me.


Blogger erin said...


Actually... I will say I rather like your angsty feminist point - how dare Wally Lamb nose into our business like that?

But for me, one of the things I loved most about that book was how effing dead on he was with it.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Leanne said...

I'm LOVING this book so far.

5:49 PM  
Blogger angiepants said...

I will say I rather like your angsty feminist point - how dare Wally Lamb nose into our business like that?

Me, too. What you said made a lot of sense, Ellie. And he's one of my favorite authors, so I felt slightly icky towards him for a split second. But now I simply MUST read Couldn't Keep It To Myself. How did I not know this existed?

8:41 PM  
Blogger Skeezix said...

I didn't really care for She's Come Undone either. Sometimes I wonder if I would go back a read books now that I am older/ at a different point in my life if I would love/hate them as much as I did the first go round.

8:25 AM  

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