Tuesday, March 25, 2008

And from Edith to Simone (a much easier leap)


Edith Wharton and Simone de Beauvoir: New Yorker and Parisian, yet definitely two of a kind. Both were huge inspirations to me, as a fledgling writer in my twenties, when I felt stuck and angry with myself for lacking courage and taking the wrong, easy path in life and ending up thoroughly lost in the woods. I'd just spent four years at university studying books mostly written by men - and I'd loved it. But in a kind of desperate instinct to find my way back to myself, I began a journey into books written by women. I read everything by Edith and Simone and many other ground-breaking women writers. The most important thing I learned was that the 'easy' road is always the hardest in the end. But there is always a way back to yourself.

And, if you want to write, you pick up a pen.

So when I read this about Simone de Beauvoir in today's Guardian by Zoe Williams, it made me laugh:

"Ollivier includes small pull-out sections on French Girls We Love and has the brass neck, ladies, to include Simone de Beauvoir, who is apparently "known as one of the 20th-century's most interesting and important women. Her memoirs reveal an independent, self-defined woman who made conscious (if existentialist!) choices regarding love and work ..."

I don't even know where to start with that, but at random, let's start here: can you imagine what De Beauvoir would have said about being called a girl? About being included in a book whose next chapter explains why it's important to buy your walking shoes in Prada, because you can never be too well dressed? About being name-checked by a person who doesn't just not know the meaning of the word existentialist, but can't even be arsed to look it up before committing it to a paperback? Can you imagine? She would have had a cow.

... surely there's more to being a French woman than not eating a whole portion of anything and knowing who Simone de Beauvoir is, even if you do not, strictly speaking, know anything she ever said."

Wonderful, Zoe.

A bit about that ('existentialist!') girl Simone here.

PS - problems with the comments section here and my website email. Things are not getting through. Apologies if you think you are being ignored. Will be sorted asap!

4 comments:

bookwitch said...

After all this time (!) two posts in a few days... Great to see your thoughts.

I'm some way into Exodus, now, believe it or not.

JULIE BERTAGNA said...

Ooh, it's a bit scary to have the bookwitch reading your book....

I meant to post today and say Urban is a wonderful name. I wonder if I could match him up with a Senga, fictionally speaking, one day.

And that will mean nothing to anyone who has not been following the debate on book Finns on bookwitch.

bookwitch said...

Urban is already extremely interested in Senga. I need to know what happens. I'll expect the story to have no Finns, other than people from Finland.

JULIE BERTAGNA said...

Urban and Senga in Finland - I have my characters, I have a setting. Now all I need is a story. Some conflict.

Could that be where a certain witch comes in??