My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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on Lionel Shriver, grievance and the bubble

Spent the weekend stuck to this chair, going over and over the manuscript until finally, my eyes blurring and my body aching and asleep, I said, enough. Today I got this draft printed, two copies, 220 pages, one to go by the end of the week to my editor friend here, and then I’ll email the ms. to my editor in Vancouver. Need to review it once more before it goes out. I know this draft is better, but I don’t know if it’s better ENOUGH. Probably not.


The Francophone group’s dinner last night – we started the evening sitting outside on Monique’s porch by candlelight, eating delicious fondue, and must have looked so picturesque that several passersby commented on the tableau. And then we went inside for more eating and drinking and arguing. As I’ve said before, two of our members are right-wing, anti-Obama, pro-Stephen Harper and most of all, pro-Israel and anti-Arabs of all nations. I do appreciate the opportunity to argue with people I like and respect, whose opinions are so very opposed to mine. There’s a lot of talk these days about the “bubble” we all live in, that the internet gives us the opportunity just to hear our own opinions echoed back to us without every encountering other points of view. I encounter other points of view every time the Francophone group meets, and though I think those two friends are very, very wrong, I am glad to hear what they have to say.

Speaking of which – there’s a huge controversy because the novelist Lionel Shriver, at a writer’s conference in Australia, spoke about the issue of cultural appropriation, saying she believes writers should be able to write in whatever voice they want, citing examples like Hallowe’en celebrations closed down because the costumes were from other cultures. She said if the fight for political correctness continues, she’ll only be able to write in the voice of a 5’2″ white American woman. Apparently she spoke with such force that people were offended, including a writer of colour who walked out and organized a forum against Shriver.

Should Tolstoy not have written his brilliant novels in the voice of a woman? Should Alice Munro or Margaret Atwood not be able to write a male character or a First Nations character or a handicapped character? I understand there’s a question of sensitivity, but now I think sensitivity is going way too far. Here’s what Carol Shields has to say:

On appropriation of voice: You should be
able to write about anything you chose. We need to go outside our own skins.
The problems come when experience is falsely conveyed without accuracy and
Accuracy and respect are key. I’m reminded of when the marvellous June Callwood, a woman who spent her entire life making other people’s lives better, in a moment of impatience at a meeting told another board member, a woman of colour, to fuck off. She was accused of being racist and expelled from the board of the charitable organization SHE FOUNDED; many former friends turned against her. The politics of grievance is lethal.

I will have to talk about this with my daughter; she understands this issue better than I do. Like June, I tend to be impatient. And I know, I am only a middle-class cis-gender heterosexual (mostly) fully-abled white woman, so utterly suspect in every way.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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