The Book Club

Strike Out

Dear Sarah,

I’m not looking to smudge aside the differences and find our common ground. The “rough contours of this divide” are way too imprecise for this material. We’re writing about how one female writer’s inability to take a hard look into her own psyche brought her such pain. We’re writing about scary it is for women to strike out on their own intellectually. About how they have to cozy up in the armpit of some mentor before they can strike out on their own–as long as they don’t say anything that will upset said armpit. Someone like Flaubert said that all great female leaders are lost at puberty. He was right.

This is a tough way to do a book review. Have you noticed that we are having our own little Maynard problem? Even though we’ve been told by the editors to say whatever we want (as long as it won’t make the lawyers hot under the collar) it’s still hard to be really specific and honest. And part of my brain is just nagging me to be nice and find a big patch of agreement and sign off friends. But I can’t. I care too deeply about this topic.

Reading Maynard’s book, I found myself looking over her shoulder at her blind spot–watching it shift and change throughout the book. The same is true of Kathryn Harrison book. When Harrison wrote that scene about her mother taking her to the male ob-gyn before she went to college so he could rip out her hymen, did she comprehend how ruthless and awful that was?

Both Harrison and Maynard went to their desks with a pile of great material–but reading the final product felt like watching two six year olds playing with blotter acid. It was mind-expanding stuff they had, but you knew that it was just going to keep hurting them because they still didn’t understand what they were playing with. And this year’s two other hot memoirs, Paul Theroux’s Sir Vidia’s Shadow and Catherine Texier’s Breakup botch it even more. Talk about condescending and snotty.

But I’m ringing off now because I wrote long for the first three days. I’m leaving space today so that you can answer the question I ask you every day–what memoirs did you go crazy for? Why? And don’t you tell me that you were too busy. Girl, give me your loot.