Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A little bit more & a link

The comment thread on my previous post is bothersome to trawl through but there's some interesting debate going on in there. Though I was exploring my use of personal experiences for fiction, and the role that autobiography has to play, it is me saying that I won't write one of those "small African girl in a dusty village" stories and quoting from Kuzhali Manickavel's blog, that has created most interest.

Kuzhali has written a blog post - A Letter of Apology to the Muslim Village of No Good Horrible Very Bad Things With Legions of White Peacocks. Her comments section is also interesting and contains further links.

I have received lots of emails on the subject from people who would prefer not to make their thoughts public. I am fascinated by the silence of some I thought would have a say, and the sense that people are watching from the sidelines.

By the way - unless you agree one hundred percent with everything I say, you are clearly wrong.

6 comments:

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I read K's blog post the other day.
For me, Susannah's comment on the thread below sums that side of the debate up rather well.
Its all been v interesting, Sara. Thank you.

Q said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Q said...

sorry, try that again...

Maybe some people are sitting it out because they find reading a torrent of comment gets both brain and eyes boggled.

Not that it's not fascinating - but perhaps too much so, a bit of a vortex, when it confronts exactly the dilemma I suspect lots and lots of writers face.

Kellie said...

While I felt your original post was about much more than the cultural tourism thing (although that's important to address) perhaps it's not surprising that this particular point raised hackles as dicussion relating to culture and race sometimes does.

As someone who quickly retreated to being a silent observer, I will fess up that it was because from the get-go some responses seemed to be extremely personal, and rather than focussing on what you were saying, became about folks defending their own work, which was frustrating. I'm also not keen to get into personal disputes on the internet (God knows I've had my fair share!).

I suspect that readers who feel the same as you/me/Kuzhali and other about authenticity etc are less likely to comment as they're quite happy with what you're saying and don't see what there is to get cheesed off about.

I really appreciate these posts, as you've articulated something that I've felt for some time. It's reassuring to know I'm in cool company and am also grateful to have discovered Kuzhali's brilliant blog (I'll defo have to get her book now!).

Susannah Rickards said...

i don't know, Vanessa, Kuzhali's second blog on the subject is inarguable.

In the end, K's just asking that we write carefully about what we really know about. That's nothing ti do with rights to write and cultural divide, that's just basic good practise.

Because K didn't point her finger and out specific stories, she had all white writers by the short and curlies for a moment while we examined whether we were guilty as charged. I don't think it's psychotic to think, Who me? when such an impassioned blow is levelled at our heads. I think it's natural. People take generalisms personally. A blanket accusation against domesticity in literature, as raised in Sara's original blog post, puts even the finest writers on the defensive. Lorrie Moore and Janice Galloway have to argue their case. But I do think it's critical that we then do really, really listen to what is being said and examine our relevant work in light of it.

It's uncomfortable. Because Kuzhali's not wrong. We wouldn't be on the defensive if what she said were absurd.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

She is not wrong, in her assertion that we need to try to get some facts right, where those facts matter! Did I say she was?

However. Let's just say there was an element of pisstake chucked about - which is not very respectful of writers who try, and get things wrong, is all. I'm not standing up for 'me', contrary to public opinion. But I will stand up for any learner writers who want to try - and may be shamed into not trying by reading those somewhat belittling posts from a well respected, well published writer.

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