This is a more personal post. If you want to hear about the paperback, I promise you, it’s coming very soon! Otherwise, feel free to read on.
Last March, I made a bargain with myself, of sorts. I decided that if I were to continue with my writing life, it would no longer be at the expense of my mental health and self-respect. I would no longer pretend not to see the problems in the Irish literary world. I would no longer accommodate anyone who sought to gaslight me or others.
There were a few reasons for this. Behind closed doors, I was getting dog’s abuse and shaming from a powerful figure in said literary world for daring to express (civil) anger about something I had every right to feel angry about. At the same time I was being gaslit by other authors when I sought to tell my truth in a supposedly safe forum. And there was a whole other drama re the literary world I can’t discuss because of legal reasons.
Then I experienced a health crisis in my immediate family. And it jolted me to the core. I’d had enough of these time wasters. Looking over my blog entries, they had been making me ill for too long. And I said so, here: https://www.google.ie/amp/s/susanlanigan.com/2020/03/03/she-wrote-it-but-the-irish-literary-fiction-edition/amp/
So, the reason I’m returning to this is because I’m getting roared at again by folk in the literary world for the same thing – questioning the reviewing policy of a Certain Newspaper. It’s *always* that that gets the raginess out. Even threats of libel this time!
It is my personal belief, a belief I am entitled to express regarding a Certain Newspaper as an occasionally consuming citizen of its resources, a citizen furthermore of a free country, that reviews in the paper are on many occasions influenced as much by the relative social status of the author as the quality of the book, and on occasion by the unexamined prejudices of the reviewer. Others disagree, and that’s fine.
(To anyone who says, well I’m bitter because a Certain Newspaper trashed *my* debut novel, I will reply, “Certainly. That makes me see things I cannot unsee.”)
The upshot of this decision means that if I read a brief review of an Indian novelist’s work in a Certain Newspaper and it refers to “exotic sounds and smells” and compares the book disparagingly to A Passage to India, an almost century-old novel written about India by a white man, ignoring the entirety of Indian literature written since; if I read the same (white) reviewer shortly afterwards condemn a debut OwnVoices novel written by a British Bangladeshi novelist on the grounds that the characters are too decent, liberal and fair minded to represent Bangladeshi migrants properly, and that the book has “nothing new” to contribute to the migrant narrative, and one of her characters is a poor imitation of a well known character from a famous book by a rich white woman novelist – if I read these reviews and conclude from the substance of them that their content is racially offensive, is that honestly a contention that requires legal challenge? Should I just keep my mouth shut about it because of some fellow white people’s feelings?
A lot of people would say yes. They would say I should keep my mouth shut. But I’m sick of that. To hear some people talk, you would think there is some sort of party whip in the Irish writing world. In which case, you can call me Neasa Hourigan 😂
I’m not angry, not any more. I wish nobody any harm, not even the miserable folk who try to shame me. I don’t believe that for one to increase, the other must decrease. But I won’t be silent either. And respectfully, or otherwise, I am going nowhere.
2 thoughts on “Because It Appears to Need Saying”
Wow. This is a good reminder of why I don’t read reviews in the papers here. Good luck, mighty Ms. L! I hope all’s well.
Ha! If only the reviewers in question shared your restraint and didn’t write them…
The reviews I’ve alluded to here were authored – a loose term for plopped out like a menstrual blob – by a very young woman whose debut short story collection has been assiduously nurtured by the Irish writing nobs. (It might well be good. I haven’t read it.) Her publisher is a highly influential critic for the same paper. Her mother has recently brokered a very lucrative deal comprising a novel and a short story (again, I’ve read reviews praising it and the praise seems honest) after being published by a literary magazine that has become a literary author factory in the last few years.
I’m aware that by even mentioning such dynastic complications that I am merrily hurling gallons of petrol (sorry Green Party) on top of the rotten remains of whatever bridges I might not have fully burned in previous iterations, but I’m just sick of this. I’m particularly sick of authors of colour being treated so badly because of this internal coddling.