THE PINK COLLAR GHETTO


 “Do not allow the empowerment of women and girls to be ‘ghettoized’ strictly as a women’s issue, ” said a  participant in the Clinton Global Initiative.  Will the Shepherdstown Town Council pay her any mind? Doubtful. There are women in the council, but the question is, do they represent the women in the community?  How can they when only a tiny minority votes at local elections. Ask the non voters why they stay away from the polls and they often say that they are disgusted with the town’s farcical administration. They are tired of lies. They are tired of folks who care only for their personal agendas.
Can this be changed? I doubt it.

GREAT DANE


Christian Moerk writes with brilliance and bravura. His novel, Darling Jim, illuminates the dark corners of the human soul. His is a compelling voice that lingers in the reader’s mind.

1.  ( I am assuming that) Danish your first language. Does it influence your writing?

Danish is my first language, yes. And it influences my writing in any number of invisible and unplanned ways, but perhaps not in the way you might imagine: so far, I’ve written all my novels in English first. Partly because the figures in them are Americans or Irish characters and operate inside an Anglo-centric cultural universe; it would be inauthentic to write them in Danish first. I then take that same story and re-imagine in into Danish. It’s not a 100% faithful translation, more like a re-telling. I just signed a deal to write a family saga that takes place in Denmark. This novel will be written in Danish first. For the first time. I’m mildly scared. But excited about the prospect, too. Because you wear the linguistic skin of your characters: InDarling Jim, for instance, I let the sounds of West Cork Irish trickle into my ear and back out on the page. So, no, Danish isn’t directly influencing my writing. Only – so far – my re-writing. But when I train my guns on a fully Danish novel set in Denmark, that may change. I think it will.

2. Both the Danes and the Irish have cultures rich in storytelling.  The protagonist in your novel, Darling Jim, is a storyteller. How much, if anything,  do his tales owe to Scandinavian sagas?

Invisibly, I’m certain, much of that dark undergrowth crept out of the Danish forests and migrated on the pages of Darling Jim without my planning for it, nor even thinking about it much. But there’s no doubt that I owe a large debt to the Danish folk tales I read as a child. The touchstone is not that dissimilar from the Irish version, I don’t think. Both need moral resolution to human dilemmas. Both believe in making choices and being conscious of one’s place in the world. All something I can appreciate.

3. How important to your work are  your cultural roots?

That’s a very hard question to answer; it’s too open-ended to do justice in a specific way. Everyone’s cultural roots color their work, whether they like it or not. But for me, I don’t walk around thinking about my cultural roots as I work. Readers would find it tedious. My time is better spent getting words down on the page. Culture is invisible and impossible to quantify. I discover new cultural roots all the time as I travel to countries I write about them: Ireland, Ecuador, Vietnam, and back to Brooklyn. Protecting or advertising one’s cultural roots can easily become a cliché. I avoid clichés.

4. You come from a family of actors and you worked for the film industry.  Did theater and cinema ever come to mind while  you wrote Darling Jim?

To a degree, although the play’s dramaturgical structure influence each book much more: prologue, first act, second act, third act, epilogue. I love laying fictional reality out that way. It creates a sandbox that audiences recognize, which can then be bent and stretched as you go. It’s a wonderful toolbox.

5. Colette’s mother once said that journalism would kill her daughter’s creative writing.
You worked as reporter for The New York Times. Do you agree with her?

I don’t believe in the term “creative writing,” because it has become a cliché. There’s just writing or not writing. If one works as a journalist for years, as I did, it can help sharpen one’s eye and impart good habits, i.e. finish on time and get your point across. Colette’s mother may have meant that one then has to loosen those tight reins for fictional figures to appear authentic. And, yes, that can be hard, because that instinct is diametrically opposed to the goal of journalism, which – at its best – stays within the confines of true events. But why not work within both? I think it’s a canard and a sorry excuse to blame journalism for not feeling fulfilled as a fiction writer.

6. To whom are you  obligated as a writer?

Once the story and the characters have passed my own benchmark test, my work belongs to the audience, each of whom pays to hear the story. To pretend otherwise is dishonest.

6. To whom are you  obligated as a writer?

Once the story and the characters have passed my own benchmark test, my work belongs to the audience, each of whom pays to hear the story. To pretend otherwise is dishonest.

7. Darling Jim has been called a Gothic novel. Do you agree with that classification?  Why?

I’m not sure what “gothic” means – it’s become another easy cliché, I’m afraid. No, I see the book as a classic drama of jealousy, longing, and the inevitability of family.

8. Do the characters in Darling Jim exist in moral vacuum?

I don’t know what that means, exactly. If you’re asking whether there are no consequences for their actions, I’d say, no, each person’s actions means they all get precisely what they deserve. Jim cannot escape his family curse; the sisters cannot escape each other’s love; their aunt cannot escape the clammy embrace of her own romantic dreams. The man in the forest will always be a prisoner there. Niall will never forget. Nobody escapes unscathed. Again, I’m not sure how you mean.

9. For whom do you write?

I love my work. I adore my characters. But both belong to the audience.

10. Aggressive self-promotion in the publishing world goes  back to Dickens, Mark Twain and Karen Blixen. Some of  today’s writers are marketed as brands. What is your opinion of this practice?

I have no moral judgment to impart, one way or the other. I am smack dab in the middle of the PR side of all my own book launches. I just appeared in three small films that I wrote, produced and directed to promote my upcoming novel THE JAGUAR’S DAUGHTER. Writers who serve the audience rather than their own narcissism don’t mind being seen. It shouldn’t be a secret. Using the word “aggressive” to describe promotion (or self-promotion) sounds pejorative to me, by the way. Careful, your bias is showing.

ON DREADFUL FIRST DRAFTS


 

Anne Lamott quoted by Jon Winokur,

“All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers, writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.”