May 14, 2015

"My mother was very, very critical of my early efforts... She was, like, 'At your age, the Brontës were doing X, Y, and Z.'"

"I was definitely a poser as a little kid.... It was just clear to me that—you know, in ‘Little Women’ they’re reading ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and putting out a newspaper and being unbelievably productive, and I was not like that. So I had this feeling of inferiority to past models with or without my mother’s criticisms."

From "Outside In/Nell Zink turned her back on the publishing world. It found her anyway," by Kathryn Schulz in The New Yorker.
[U]ntil last year, all of Zink’s work was written for a tiny audience—generally as tiny as one or zero.... Burck, her first husband, attributes the clandestine nature and short half-life of Zink’s writing to the Brontë-or-bust standard of her childhood. “The thought that she might write something that wasn’t good was terrifying,” he said, “so it’s safer to not write or not show anybody what you write.” Zink... recognizes that directing her work to one heterosexual man who wasn’t her partner was a way of protecting herself: her writing could be interpreted as flirting, rather than as writing in earnest. “It’s nice to have the excuse of heteronormativity,” she says. “You can explain it away, you can say, ‘Well, she has a crush on him.’ It lowers the risks for me.”

17 comments:

Fernandinande said...

I was definitely a poser as a little kid....[snip] and I was not like that.

Did that make any sense? Is a little kid who doesn't put out a newspaper a 'poser'?

“It’s nice to have the excuse of heteronormativity,

Aw, how cute - the silly person used a big word.

tim maguire said...

It’s nice to have the excuse of heteronormativity,

That's brilliant. Can I use it?

buwaya said...

Its common for kids to keep their writing away from their parents.
When my daughter was in a creative writing program this was the case with all the kids.

Ann Althouse said...

Read the whole article. Nell Zink is 51 years old, and she went through a long part of her life writing very elaborate things for either zero readers or for 1 reader. This isn't just about a child not showing her writing. This is someone who took that resistance through a long part of her life. It's a very interesting story. Please don't just trash this person superficially and based on the small excerpt I've given.

Ann Althouse said...

"Aw, how cute - the silly person used a big word."

I think you are missing the point!

UntraWaunk said...

personally, I don't write because of a crippling fear of being featured in a New Yorker article

mccullough said...

reminds me a bit of Emily Dickinson writing poems to stuff in her dresser

Unknown said...

Look, nobody gives a shit, so why don't you just tell us what to think so we can all agree and move on? To something important like American Idol maybe.

Sebastian said...

""My mother was very, very critical of my early efforts... She was, like, 'At your age, the Brontës were doing X, Y, and Z.'""

A problem the Brontë sisters weren't privileged to have. Not that they would have whined about it if they had reached Zink's age.

"It's a very interesting story."

Methinks the lady is a, how shall I put it, unreliable narrator.

Taught herself to read French by slogging through Les Mots: explains a lot.

YoungHegelian said...

I've met quite a few brilliant but basically unbalanced folks in my days, and Zink seems to fit the bill.

Her description of her early life seems the embellished words of a fabulist. The Northern Neck of Virginia (King George's County) a big Klan hang-out in the mid/late 70's? I don't think so. A mother who berates her child for not up to the Bronte sisters? Sounds fishy. Four years as a bricklayer? How many females just get grabbed off the street as bricklayers & stick with it for four years?

She has problems with the socio-economic history of the US, so where does she end up -- Israel, & Germany. Because, they don't have any historical baggage, nuh-uhh. She loves eastern European culture, but yet seems unaware of the day to day brutalities of Eastern European history, histories that make the history of the US seem like the day at the Berlin Zoo birdhouse that opens the article.

I'm glad this woman can write fiction, because she gets paid to make stuff up, which she seems to be good at. Otherwise, she's too in love with her own opinions to be any good at any other humanistic discipline.

Robert Cook said...

I'm halfway through the article and I want to read Nell Zink's fiction.

I will seek it out at the local bookstores, post haste!

dustbunny said...

She is obviously brilliant and eccentric with edges not rounded off by the conformity of an MFA writers workshop.
I really want to read her stuff

Ann Althouse said...

This all connects back to Jonathan Franzen and his controversial essay about birds. It's all very bird-centric.

Robert Cook said...

"'Aw, how cute - the silly person used a big word.'

"I think you are missing the point!"


He (she?) doesn't care about the point. Zink's eccentricity and belated public notice simply provide an opportunity for him (her?) to make dreary and condescending cheap shots.

wildswan said...

I read the book Mislaid on Kindle because I like new stuff.

It would be interesting to meet this woman and see what she said.

Nothing links up or lasts in her world. All the effort being poured out is like a bird's life as a human sees it - just flickering about - while the bird is making an enormous effort - but to do what?

wildswan said...

I read the book Mislaid on Kindle because I like new stuff.

It would be interesting to meet this woman and see what she said.

Nothing links up or lasts in her world. All the effort being poured out is like a bird's life as a human sees it - just flickering about - while the bird is making an enormous effort - but to do what?

Smilin' Jack said...

Read the whole article. Nell Zink is 51 years old, and she went through a long part of her life writing very elaborate things for either zero readers or for 1 reader.

Read it. Her writing brought to mind the famous Johnson quote regarding preaching:

"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."