What is refreshing about Women is its storytelling through the female gaze, and how this informs our questioning and resolution of identity. Women doesn’t profess to be a feminist novella, and I didn’t notice this distinction until I meditated on why the book feels so different from classic coming-of-age fiction and memoir. Caldwell describes her lovers and friends the way many women see and consider themselves: the way our bodies match other women, the way we diverge, the softness and confidence of Finn’s “sweet spot” clothing style (a perfect balance of being butch and being approachable). The allure of other women that she conveys is in their ability to be natural and brilliant. There is a desire to have someone who has herself figured out accept you.
i neglected to mention, the anthology from which my story was pulled was to be an anthology of ‘RISKY AND PROVOCATIVE WOMEN WRITERS.’
i don’t think they wanted ‘risky’ or ‘provocative’ women writers. i’m not sure they understand the meaning of either word.
a friend of mine told me the morning my essay went up on Hobart that a prominent woman writer (not one included in this anthology, i.e. not roxane) known for her writings about women and feminism, had initially linked to my essay and said something along the lines of, “e.e. has some interesting points here.” or maybe she said “interesting arguments.” at any rate, she said something that wasn’t 100% condemning. a couple hours later the same friend told me this woman had deleted her tweet linking to my essay. my friend said something like, “[this female writer] got into trouble, as she always does, as her “supporters” are so intense and possessive of her.”
so what does this mean? are we writers politicians now? catering to our ‘supporters’ or ‘fans’? afraid of open, honest dialogue and discussion? afraid to say anything new, that might not be easily swallowed or digested by our followers?
i find this very depressing. and another reason i’m neither ‘an essayist’ nor on twitter or fb. the second you become fearful of offending a fan or follower or even another writer who is a friend, you have lost the ability to think and to speak freely. you are no longer independent. you are no longer a leader. you have lost your courage. and my respect.
my fav new hobart writerVictor Freeze has an essay/movie review up today.
So, I was jobless. Homeless. Misguided and lost.
I had hit rock bottom.
Apathy and nihilism had seeped into my thoughts and I couldn’t dodge the feelings no matter how hard I tried.
I didn’t want to live because there was no afterlife. I didn’t see the point in struggling and being miserable if I was just going to die one day. I hated that our lives revolved around obtaining currency in order to live a comfortable life. I hated that the journey to obtaining currency brought me and everyone I know to stress and mundaneness. I didn’t agree with the education system. I despised that there was evil and evil people in the world. The food cycle upset me. The meat packaging industry upset me. The concept of advertising with its stupid subliminal messages and terrible attempts to rouse people upset me.
I was blinded by the negatives in life. Bogged down six feet beneath the ground on the bad side of life’s teeter-totter covered in mud and shit.
The book situates itself firmly in the precedent of queer women’s fiction; hardly a few pages go by without a reference to Anne Carson, Jeanette Winterson, or, in one case, The L Word. Caldwell uses these as tethers for her own book, and earns a spot for herself among those she references. She brings to the page such an urgency that it is impossible not to be swept up, to remember what it was like when we ourselves were so engulfed by another person that when we emerged, we had to struggle to find ourselves again. Women is a skillfully and engrossingly written novella, a small slice of overwhelming love and heartbreak, and the search for belonging and self. Caldwell proves herself as a writer to watch in the coming years.
i could not be more proud of chloe caldwell. working on Womenwith her was one of the best literary experiences of my life. she was extremely open to editorial suggestions and together we worked very hard for a few months earlier this year. it was always a pleasure to read each new addition, just as it had been a joy to read her initial manuscript. i have about ten-fifteen books stacked on my writing desk and i know Women would be one of them if i hadn’t published it so wtf, i’m going to add it to my stack today!
p.s. super excited to go on tour with chloe (and mira and chelsea) in about 13 days, first in L.A. and then through the midwest. it’s wonderful when the author you’re publishing becomes one of your best friends.
“The truth is that mental illness can be deadly, and suicide is the end result of ongoing symptoms. Cancer kills when it spreads so much that the organs can’t function. Mental illness kills when the urge to die becomes louder than the urge to live.”—
In the end, there are five bear cubs underneath your porch. You name them after U.S. Presidents. Taft dies of starvation. Carter disappears into the flowers. Hoover is carried away by hawks. Roosevelt digs into the ground to get away from ghosts. Lincoln grows up. Lincoln becomes a mother, with five cubs of her own. You are very proud of Lincoln. After Lincoln eats you, you adapt to your new life. You are still so proud of the bears you have given names to. Maybe they were dogs.
"I guess I’m still coming to terms with the fact that when I walk out of a room the story line continues in the room I just left instead of following me around like a security camera." - Chelsea Martin, Even Though I Don’t Miss You
“Jellyfish cosmology is unusual in that it contains no devils; jellyfish are drawn to the good lie, the myth of benevolence, like scraps of metal to a magnet.”—I have five animal poems up at Hobart today! (via outsidewarmafghans)
“you say you don’t have any interest in what Scott McClanahan and I somewhat jokingly (but mostly seriously) refer to as ‘bleeding on the page.’ Why is that? do you think you can be a successful writer without bleeding? Is this really just a comment about your wife’s writing?”—
In Finn’s absence, I crave the attention of women. I jump at the chance to be around females, in public and private settings, with friends and strangers. I have sleepovers with my friend Lily that we call adult slumber parties. We go to bed early, side by side, and cook breakfast leisurely in the mornings. I also join an online dating site. (Remember when you went dyke shopping? The Female Woody Allen asked me over the phone recently. That sounded exhausting. And depressing!) I am a social fucking butterfly, I accept all invitations — and often I do the inviting. One Saturday I go on three dates in a row with women I meet online.
I had my bags packed and was getting ready to leave with two insane-seeming girls who offered me sex in exchange for a ride to Cleveland when a few patients stopped me and essentially pushed me into the lecture hall. I don’t know why I didn’t put up more of a fight - maybe because I didn’t actually want to leave, maybe I was just too tired - but I’m glad I didn’t. I began to understand and appreciate the value of friends, the importance of having people around me who’d tell me when I was fucking up, and the value of listening to them. The thought of leaving became increasingly fleeting, and I started doing the things that people were telling me to do.