Except for taking the occasional cheap shot on Twitter, I’ve kept clear of the op-ed juggernaut created by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in the Atlantic on “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” (Some headline writer deserves a good slapdown for that one.) I haven’t even read all of Slaughter’s argument yet, and I’m not sure I will. When I go to a scary movie, there’s always some harrowing scene that I’ll peek at through my hands: I can’t quite not watch but I don’t want to look at the carnage straight on. Slaughter’s column and the reactions to it (there are many) have had a similar effect on me, although in this case I feel like the really scary stuff is just offscreen, locked in a closet while the filmmakers try to redirect my attention. I could go on and explain my reservations about this sub-genre of feminist confessional, but I am too absorbed by another kind of have-it-all trouble.
I’m on break this week, which means I’m working harder than ever. I’m blogging for the first time in two (!) months. I’ve read for long, unbroken stretches, for my own pleasure. I’ve been giving my novel the kind of sustained attention it hasn’t gotten nearly enough of lately.
The novel kept me up a lot of last night, in fact, as I debated plot points and possibilities with myself. This isn’t nearly as pleasant to do at 3 a.m. in your room as it is at, say, 11 a.m. in a coffee shop. Plot scares me. So many things can happen in a story. But what really needs to happen? What wants to happen? Staring directly at those questions isn’t necessarily the most direct route to an answer I can work with. No story can or should have it all. But is it too much to hope that this one has room for pneumatic tubes and swordplay? That it can be mythic and local? I’m looking through my fingers, waiting to see how it plays out.