A counter-reading, though, might suggest that she [the protagonist of Messud's new novel The Woman Upstairs] is too sane; so determined to keep everything on an even keel that she has sacrificed the kind of spontaneity and wildness necessary to fall in love, or to make art. A key question the novel's title invites us to consider is to what extent this has befallen her because she's a woman. "Is that a gendered state?" says Messud now. "No. But is it something that's more often true of women than men? I think so." She and her husband, the literary critic James Wood, have two children, a daughter, Livia, 12, and a son, Lucian, nine, and she goes on to tell me – with some nifty mimicry of the way children talk to one another – about the differences she observes in the kindergarten classes at their schools: "The boys go in the corner, they wave – Hi, Hi – and then they go off and build a Lego tower or whatever before school starts, and the girls go sit at a table and they draw and they look at each other's work and they chat and they say: 'Is that a flower? It doesn't look very much like a flower. Why did you use that colour? You used brown for a flower? Flowers aren't brown.'" It's very funny, until she adds the thought that: "The girl who doesn't sit at the table is a failed girl."
Sunday, August 04, 2013
"The girl who doesn't sit at the table is a failed girl"
Alex Clark interviews Claire Messud at the Guardian: