I got quite a surprise this week while making the rounds of my favorite political blogs--Digby gave a speech accepting an award on behalf of the progressive blogosphere, and it turns out she's a woman.
In retrospect this oughtn't surprise me, but it does. I guess it's because she chose a male pseudonym and there's a picture of a guy (Howard Beale) on her site. And she has a traditionally "male" way of writing--direct and confrontational, and highly organized--which when you think about it is not really particularly masculine at all. It's just allowed to seem that way, because it's what we've come to expect.
The first fiction workshop I ever took had a policy of submitting and workshopping stories anonymously. I've never encountered this tactic again and don't employ it myself--for the simple reason that everybody already knows who wrote all the stories. The workshoppee never offers any criticisms, and generally puts on an obvious poker face. Anyway, at the end of the class the prof always asked people to guess who the writer was, and of course everyone got it every time.
My first story for the class was about a woman visiting somebody in the hospital (I think), and when the workshop was over people started guessing. Nobody guessed me--the guesses were all women, presumably because the story was about one.
When you come down to it, most gender identifiers are bullshit, and I can certainly understand why a political blogger would want to establish a genderless identity for his or her ideas before eventually spilling the beans. But why would a fiction writer do it? Joe Klein, who has become so odious and embarrassing I can barely type his name without sighing deeply, did it so that his journalist self wouldn't be punished for mocking the Clintons (as if any journalist in the history of the world has gotten anything but approval for that)--in my view, a pretty lame move. Can anybody think of any other anonymous and pseudonomous novelists? (Not memoirists, please.) Did their reasons for anonymity make sense?
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