I have been promoting my anthology Desire: Women Write About Wanting since it came out from Seal Press in mid November. Readings at KGB in New York, Rosemary Daniell's Zona Rosa group in Savannah, and at bookstores and universities around Virginia, as well as bookclubs in Virginia and Rhode Island, have brought some things home to me about writing, publishing, books, and what women want to read and will respond to.
The women (and the more than several men who have been at readings) have responded so positively to the essays that I wonder: what is it that is being said in this book that isn't being said elsewhere? And why has it been so hard to get the media interested in a book like this? A book different from anything on the market, yet one which speaks OUT LOUD to women from aged thirty through eighty! I have also had extremely positive reviews by men and wonderful remarks from men in my Goodreads groups (goodreads.com).
I wonder this even more in light of the most recent publishing fiasco concerning the false memoir by Peggy Seltzer that managed to garner a fantastic review in the New York Times, coverage on On Point, and television interviews. All for something that, while perhaps well-written (most of us will now never know) was completely and utterly fabricated by a woman who is either a sociopath or a pathological liar.
While my book contains twenty three beautifully written, heartfelt and HONEST essays by women of many ages and many stages of life about their deepest and most revealing desires. The desire for home, for place, for love, intimacy, money, sex, freedom, God, even a desire not to have desires.... you name it.
Reader response has been profound with many readings or book club discussions ending up like early feminist consciousnes raising events: each woman vying to tell her story, or wanting to say why one essay or another hit closer to home.
Katha Pollit got huge press for revealing her own "warts" publicly: she was both praised and villifiled. But Pollit is famous so that helps. What about other women, writers of note like Daniell, Jane Juska, Joyce Maynard, Melissa Pritchard (as well as many other writers not so "famous") telling it like it is? Seems to me that those stories are even more potent than Pollit's who has had a regular place to vent for years. Apparently hundreds of others feel the same way, as women I know are buying multiple copies and sending them to friends and relatives. The true life (nothing made up there) essays in Desire are hitting a nerve.
Would that the media were more interested in good writing and good thinking on its own merit without the flash and glitter of fame or notoriety. Would that publishers were still interested in good ideas and good writing for its own sake without necessarily needing shock value. Sure, a white kid raised by a black mother in the projects is compelling...but it could be just as compelling as fiction. Reading blogs I found that many people seem put off by fiction, as though it isn't quite as "serious" as memoir because it isn't True. Funny concept. Hard to convince readers otherwise, I guess. Memoir is wonderful, when done right, like The Glass Castle. Otherwise, though, writers should write their own truth in the genre that lets them be the most honest....not the most sensational.
Causes Lisa Solod Supports
Temple House of Israel, Staunton, Virginia, CASA