The Last White Male Novelist Hangs up His Quill
It’s been a good run. Let’s face it, for four hundred years, we ‘owned’ the canon. Most ‘best twenty’ lists include nineteen of us, with Mary Shelley being the only interloper. This has come at great cost. A not uncommon experience was the 1895 reaction to the publication of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, which met with a terrible response from the Victorian public because of its controversial treatment of sex, religion and marriage. Furthermore, its apparent attack on the institution of marriage caused further strain on Hardy’s already difficult marriage because Emma Hardy was concerned that Jude the Obscure would be read as autobiographical. Some booksellers sold the novel in brown paper bags, and the Bishop of Wakefield is reputed to have burnt his copy. In his postscript of 1912, Hardy replied, “After these [hostile] verdicts from the press its next misfortune was to be burnt by a bishop – probably in his despair at not being able to burn me.” He didn’t write another novel in his last 33 years.
Don’t make the same mistake Emma Hardy made; we don’t just write about ourselves. We’ve included the Sancho Panzas of the world from the beginning. And we’ve tried to understand women—look at Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina. Rather than ignore them, we’ve obsessed. My God, Lolita!
These women were admittedly drawn from the only vision we honestly know, which you deride as the ‘male perspective.’ There’s no way for us to be diverse. That seems to describe ‘anybody but us.’ I suppose those of us who are not gay or transgender could move in that direction. But if we didn’t come by it honestly, if we were just trying to be diverse, you’d find some way for it not to count. This has become a rigged game. I’m done, outta here.