A few weeks ago I was reading about Then Came the Evening, the new first novel by Brian Hart. Most reviews compared him to Cormac McCarthy, an incredible author of spare, painfully gorgeous, textured prose. The kind of writer who forces me to stay up late, oh so late, reading and wishing I could write anything like that. But several of these 'reviews' just pissed me off. Because they were from women, all of whom commented in one way or another that Hart 'writes like a man'.
I'm sorry; he writes with his penis? With his testicles? While he's scratching his ass and farting? What the hell does this mean and why would anyone critique someone this way? It's a man's book, too tough, testosterone-fueled, too harsh, all muscle-bound, aggressive, violent, and really, really depressing. A woman would have never written this.
Really? Oh shut up.
Part of my anger at these bloggers and critics is that they're so unimaginative in their criticism. Part of it is any writer being referred to by gender or race - does Brian Hart write 'too white', too? Or too black, too Hispanic, too tall, too short, does he write as if he's part Irish or just a little too country? Part of it comes from what Oscar Wilde said over a hundred years ago: 'There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.' But then he wrote all gay-ish, so what did he know?
And the rest comes from the fact that I was labeled, early and often, as a 'woman writer'.
When what I was, I imagined prosaically, was a human being who writes.
Look, there are florid writers who are male. Depressing, dark writers who are female. It's 2010 and we still live with this idiotic distinction of how we use words?
Oh forget it.
I bought the book. It's fantastic, beautiful. Reading it along with Patti Smith, Lorrie Moore, Mary Jo Bangs, Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, Anne Sexton, Margaret Atwood, Anie Proulx, Alice Munro, Zadie Smith, and all those other aggressive, ball-scratching, testicle-lifting unsentimental authors. You know, the men.