Wilde Lake

PC: Politically Correct or Just Profoundly Conscious?

Last night, I caught myself. I was at my event in NYC and a wonderful woman -- really, it was like Central Casting had sent out a call for "Laura Lippman reader" -- asked about the somewhat different style of Wilde Lake. The book, for the first two-thirds, switches between Lu Brant's first-person narration of a series of childhood events and the present-tense third-person limited POV of Lu over several months in 2015. The lovely woman in the audience, who said she had read everything I had written, asked if this structure had been difficult to conceive and execute.

It had been hard work and effort is one thing I feel I'm entitled to claim. (Results, achievements not so much.) Delighted by the question and this thoughtful reader, I started to say, "Oh yes, I --"

I doubt if anyone in the audience noticed, but I paused and substituted a verb for the one I had intended to use. I can't remember what I did say, but I know what I did not say: "Slaved."

My mind had just enough time to process this choice. How offensive, how misguided to use this word as a description of writing a novel. As a description of any work that is voluntary. I did not "slave." I wrote 3-4 hours a day and I was paid very nicely.

I offer this story because I know people fret about so-called micro-aggressions  and political correctness. And, yes, I can see that sometimes we get a little silly about language.

But it never hurts to check ourselves, to examine the words we use, the biases and stereotypes that flit across our consciousness like cockroaches in the kitchen, fleeing the light.

Think about it this way: If you walk up to a friend and start fondling her breasts, that's quite rude. But if you do it to yourself once a month, in the privacy of your own home, it's just good preventive health care.

Speaking of language, I'm tagging this post "breasts" just to see what happens. 



Everything Old is New Again

In 2007, I decided to blog every day of my tour for What the Dead Know. Now no one seems to blog anymore. And, if I'm honest, I don't read many blogs. Remember when we all used to hang out at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind? Good times. 

The publication of WTDK was seminal for me. It was my first New York Times bestseller, a decade after my first book appeared. I think it also was my first book to be reviewed in the daily New York Times. Now I sometimes review for the NYT (see Sunday's paper for my thoughts on the flinty brilliance of Lydia Millet's Sweet Lamb of Heaven). I have been a judge for the National Book Award for fiction. I am part of the Establishment, or maybe just part of that sad doomed tribe of the traditionally published. Maybe those two things are the same to you, but I'm not getting on that ice floe, not yet.

In my head, I'm still an outsider, the Anybodys of fiction, always on the edge of the group, trying to persuade the cool guys and gals that I have something to offer. I think most of us feel that way. 

Yesterday, I met Colin Jost of SNL*. I felt obligated to tell him that I no longer watch SNL, not because it's not culturally relevant (it is admirably robust), but because I have achieved, through my own persistence, the odd combination of being an old lady with a young kid. In 2007, I was on tour almost constantly for 30 days and I thought that was a big deal. In 2016, I will have almost 14 solid days of events that have to be balanced with birthday parties, my beloved stepson's college graduation (he shares an alma mater with Jost, as it happens), my husband's newest gig. From here, 2007 looks pretty damn easy. Still, I'm going to try to blog every day. For now the comments are off, but if you find this, it will be via social media, where you can have your say. 

*I met Colin Jost because I did The Wrap-Up Show for the Howard Stern Show, which was only one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. And I will blog about it later under the heading: Sometimes you have to ask.