subtitle: the function of literature?
i went to Cara Hoffman‘s reading for SO MUCH PRETTY at Bluestockings tonight (which, btw, if you are in NYC and haven’t been to yet you should go, i will be returning with $$$ for to buy all their ridiculously well-curated books), and probably because it was a feminist bookshop and the author and the book itself are outspokenly deliberately feminist, the Q&A got pretty intense. i haven’t read the book yet, but if you look at it for two seconds (or hear the author read from it for fifteen minutes) you know right away it is about girls who are missing. and i thought to myself, maybe she will have a theory on this Season of Missing Girls we are having (see also: Hannah Pittard’s THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY, Jane Bradley’s YOU BELIEVERS, Emma Donoghue’s ROOM, Timothy Schaffert’s THE COFFINS OF LITTLE HOPE).
Cara is, it should be noted, a big fan of Hannah Pittard, and interviewed her, and actually said something along the lines of “FUCK MY BOOK! GO BUY HERS!” at this point of the reading, which will forever endear her to me. and so there i am, wondering out loud to her about what it is, is it like in Hollywood when there are four blockbuster movies about asteroids hitting the earth in a row, or is it something else, like our social conscience bubbling up, and she said yes (and i am paraphrasing here, obviously) — that it was the latter, and that if you look at the statistics, it is mind-numbingly clear that we should be paying more attention to this. some of the statistics she mentioned (with a little help from NOW):
- an average of 3 women a day are killed by an intimate partner
- more than 600 women are raped or sexually assaulted every day
i couldn’t find any stats on abduction, but i imagine it’s equally horrifying. so after we’d talked about this a little bit (CHEERFUL!), another woman in the audience asked how Cara deals with thinking and writing about this, if it isn’t hugely depressing. Cara said that it makes her angry, which is useful creatively, and then turned the question around. and the woman said, well, i stopped thinking about it.
which i 1,000,million percent relate to. i am an ostrich — get me in too heated of a conversation, and i bury my head in the sand. except for very rare things like Planned Parenthood, for which i will READ YOU THE RIOT ACT, but those things are few and far between. i just don’t like to argue, is all.
but this isn’t really about arguing, is it? i mean, this is about how i carry mace and walk purposefully and hope like hell that it’s enough to keep me mostly safe when i’m out by myself at night (which i try not to do very often anyway). this is about terrible terrible things happening all the time and us as a society not thinking about it until we absolutely have to. and it’s about people like Hoffman and Pittard and Bradley and Schaffert and Donoghue writing queasy-making books about girls going missing, and all the many ways we get it wrong when we have a chance to address the issue. it’s about people like A.S. King writing posts like this. it’s about the many ways we fail to look out for ourselves and each other. and it’s about what good literature does — it makes us think about things we might not (and might rather not) otherwise think about. and for that i am, as ever, thankful.