I enjoyed this interview with the brilliant writer Mary Gaitskill, about her new novel:
Guernica: Did your feeling of “I can’t write that” have to do with writing about race?
Mary Gaitskill: Yes, though I didn’t see it as “writing about race.” What I thought would be perhaps criticized or seen as “off” was that I was writing from the point of view of people who are not white. I am honestly a little weirded out that there has not been some kind of comment on this. It’s not that I want criticism. I’m just surprised that no one has said anything at all or asked, “Why does she think she can do this?” It scares me a little. Partly, I’m worried that no one is saying anything because they are afraid of being seen as politically correct.
One black person who spoke at a reading liked what I read, but she said that most of the things she’s read by white people about non-white people don’t even make her angry or offend her. It’s just, “Oh, not this again.” It’s just the same boring shit over and over again, and I really hope that’s not why people are being silent. Are they thinking, “Here it is again, the same boring shit?” And I’m sure it’s true. There probably is a lot of boring shit.
Guernica: At the end of the reading at the Brooklyn Public Library, you asked if there were any questions audience members were holding back. What do you think people are holding back?
Mary Gaitskill: I think people hold back all kinds of things. And in a way, they just want to be nice. They want to be civil. I never know what to ask at the end of readings. But I want people to know that if they want to say, for example, “I find that very unconvincing in your voice. You don’t sound to me like a Dominican girl. Why did you choose to do that?” I don’t think that’s an unfair question. I’d answer it.