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Maybe this is on my mind because I’m tearing my hair out to finish my screenplay, start my Great American Novel and get more than 1/3 of the way through a short story I started, which has gotten stuck in the driveway (literally, my characters are in the driveway and I do not know what’s going to happen once they enter the house. Choose your own adventure, maybe?). I’m tearing my hair out because I am going to have a baby in two months, which means The End of Life as I Know It. I hardly make the time to write as it is, feeling much more inclined to get an extra hour of sleep or reply to emails or come up with clever Facebook updates. I can’t imagine how much more unproductive I’ll be come April, and then for the rest of my life as a mother.
This all came up because I clicked on an article about Nathan Englander, whose new book of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, is out. (You can read the title story in the New Yorker.) And Jonathon Safran Foer’s book is now a movie. And Gary Shteyngart has a not-funny funny page in last week’s New Yorker. WTF is with these male Jewish rockstar writers? Why aren’t we women in their ranks? Besides Nicole Krauss (who, I hate to say, must live in her husband’s shadow), what do we have to speak for of the post-Baby Boomer generation?
I will always remember this day, in grad school, in a class of mostly PhD students, when I looked around our conference table between parsing out some Midrashic sentence (our professor liked to make us read text without vowels, then put the vowels in based on the rules of Hebrew grammar, I kid you not) and I realized that most of my colleagues were men. Married men. With wives and kids at home. The four or so of us women were all single.
Is this why so few of us rise to the heights of Phillip Roth, John Updike, Michael Chabon, and all the great Jewish writers preceding them, back to Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and, heck, Moses - heck, God? Are all the great potential female writers turning instead to cookbooks and mommy blogs? Or are we somehow less creative, less ambitious, less recognized, less perverse - all qualities that instead ignite our men and launch them into glory (phallic image not intended)? Yet women are surpassing men in so many areas that I actually often feel bad for men. I’ve even softened my feminist stance because of this. But yet, when it comes to the tradition of Jewish literature, which is so rich with talent and always has been, women are practically, weirdly absent. At least, they are not enjoying the success of their male counterparts, even though they’re just about outnumbering them in the rabbinate, in the universities, and in most workplaces (techie jobs excluded).
I guess the only solution is to get up when my alarm goes off at 6 to sit down and just…write.