Over at New York Magazine, there’s an interesting piece by Boris Kachka on novelist Claire Messud and her husband, the New Yorker’s fiction critic, James Wood. The subhed dubs them “the First Couple of American Fiction” which contrasts — perhaps — with how at least Messud sees herself:
I ask if she thinks Wood’s controversial criticism has affected her career. “I certainly have felt at various moments that the reluctance of a certain world to take me seriously as a writer is not unlike the fact that only one of us can actually work in the house at any given time. That there isn’t enough air.”
But if a best-selling highbrow author isn’t part of the Establishment, who is?
She shoots me a wide-eyed look. “I’m never asked to do anything. I’m asked to write things, but … but … things like the PEN festival, the New Yorker festival, the Brooklyn festival—I’m not on anybody’s mind, that’s for sure … I’ve never had a mentor. There’s never been anyone who’s pushed for me in my entire life. Never.” She catches herself, pauses. “Maybe nobody has it, is the truth. Maybe everybody is alone.”
Messud later writes Kachka to correct a few of these statements — “she has been invited to the PEN festival” — but the piece, and this passage in particular, certainly makes one think about how we think about ourselves.
Messud has a new book out called The Woman Upstairs. The title is a reference to the classic feminist text The Madwoman in the Attic,by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar which Maureen Corrigan recently paid tribute to here.