Continuing The Domestic Discussion

March 28th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

As we noted last week, the women authors in Britain are not happy about the fact that their work is considered domestic (among other perceived flaws). Toby Litt and Ali Smith will likely be defending their ill-chosen words in the introduction to New Writing 13 for a long time. Their approach undermined their assertion that many writers today take the path well followed. Today we bring you Kirsty Gunn’s defense of domestic literature (second link below leads to a treasure trove of other thoughts on this subject…including ours). Gunn starts her argument in a most appropriate place:

. . .In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote of the necessity of writing that covers all aspects of our lives, and of women, in particular, making the subject of what they know an honourable and serious one: “I would ask you to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial”.

Where are these books now, that hesitate at “no subject however trivial”? Despite the burgeoning interest in houses, gardens and cooking on television, in non-fiction and a certain kind of popular novel, in literature it seems we continue to gloss over the significance of home.

The history of the English novel is all about staying at home, or not – from Robinson Crusoe’s island to Jonathan Franzen’s minutely examined family refrigerator representing all that is stifling and suffocating about family life. But if we are to agree, as the painter Robert Motherwell suggested, to “embrace the native and the foreign with the same spirit of enquiry”, we must surely seek to celebrate those writers whose subject is wholeheartedly located behind the closed doors of home, whose pages reflect the lives so many women have chosen to embrace.

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