The Paris Review Interviews Women Writers at Work

By Anderson, Doris | Herizons, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

The Paris Review Interviews Women Writers at Work


Anderson, Doris, Herizons


THE PARIS REVIEW INTERVIEWS WOMEN WRITERS AT WORK

In her reflective, witty introduction, Margaret Atwood asks: why a book on women writers particularly? Indeed, most of the 16 women interviewed claim to write in both male and female voices. A few bristle at even being classified as women writers. Joan Didion, Nadine Gordimer scorn, as Mary McCarthy does, "capital WW women writers."

But others are convinced that women do communicate in a different voice. They cite Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot as mentors, as well as many men-Henry James, Dickens, Joyce and even Hemingway-for his sentence structure.

One element which seems to separate women from men is how hard they had to fight for the space and time to write. Indeed, although many of them had relationships and even married, few had children. Some, like Nadine Gordimer, trained her husband not to expect any chitchat at breakfast and her children not to disturb her if her door was shut.

What seems to separate the women in this book from more commonplace scribblers is their absolute dedication to their work. No line of poetry left Marianne Moore's hand until she was satisfied down to the last comma. Katherine Anne Porter spent almost 20 years working at odd jobs to support herself while constantly developing her "voice."

A few don't write a line until they are ready to undertake a complete first draft. …

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