Friday, September 13, 2013

Deliberately diminished

A while ago I wrote about a friend/ fellow author who felt that a reviewer had intentionally made her seem less than she is by omitting her most significant academic accomplishments in his review and highlighting an achievement which was minor by comparison.

 I thought of my friend the other day in connection with Mudwoman, a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, published last year.  Mudwoman is terrifying, gripping, and insightful re. the conflicts suffered by women who try to excel  and make the most of their talents and abilities.  Later I used a search engine to find out what's new with Ms. Oates, whose work I have admired for many years. (See my blog last year about A Widow's Story.)

My search took me to an interview with Oates published in The Guardian. (See  The interviewer asked her what was the worst thing anyone had ever said about her. Oates spoke of the occasion when a play she'd written was produced in New York City. A newspaper in Detroit, where she was then living, ran the headline, "Detroit housewife writes play".  Oates was a university professor at the time. Then, later, when she won a book award, a well-known magazine headlined its article about her:  "Shy faculty wife...." Oates' husband was indeed chair of an English department at the time, but she was a mature writer and had been a professor for ten years.

It doesn't seem to matter how well-known and accomplished you are as a writer; you'll sooner or later encounter a reviewer who will deliberately diminish your achievements and categorize you in some way that makes you less than what you really are.  Should my friend have confronted the reviewer who made her seem less than she is?  I'm not sure.

Meanwhile, I'm going to reread Mudwoman, and I urge you to do so too. It's excellent.

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