Sunday, August 26, 2007

Getting back to the self

My former student Paul Morton interviews Thomas Mallon at Bookslut. (Hmmm, I must confess that I am especially delighted to see Paul invoking the charismatic and sexually alluring heroes of Restoration and eighteenth-century comedies! Lots of good stuff here...)
Mary tells Fuller at some point that she doesn’t think any woman could approve, in their heart, of male-male love. This is one of the interesting things about historical novels. You get to study how the mores of sex changes so dramatically from one generation to the next. You couldn’t imagine someone like Mary saying something like that today.

If she were to use such a line like that today, either a fictional character or a person you met, you would disapprove of her and you would be right to disapprove of her. But she’s struggling with this in the ’50s and I think it would be unnatural for her to be so ahead of her time. Surely, there were people who were. But I didn’t want to make her prematurely pro-gay -- you know, what’s that famous phrase about people in the ’30s, “prematurely anti-fascist” -- prematurely pro-gay, because I thought it would be…

It would be a sign of insanity.

She would cease to exist to me as a realistic character.


  1. Hello! I know this was a long time ago but you posted on here:

    About the "weirdly adorable" rat owning girl? Well I stumbled upon this and, guess what, I am that girl! I didnt know they ever did anything with my angry letter until now!

    Im 14 years old and have 5 rats.

    I just thought it was cool to have people talk about me. Hah!

    Sorry this has nothing to do with the blog. I didn't know how to contact you any other way.

    Love, Zoe and the rats!

  2. Hi there, Zoe! I really did love your letter, and I'm glad your rats are thriving.

    all best wishes to you & the rats--if you e-mail me a picture of them at my Columbia e-mail address (jmd204 at columbia dot edu) I will post it on the blog!

  3. How terrific that Zoe has got in touch. I'm looking forward to the photo.

  4. My mother graduated from Rollins in 1955, having majored in music. One of her best friends, Buddy, was gay. While she and my father were dating they used to go to a bar in DC called the Redskins Lounge, which she said was where gay men hung out and so a great bar. I suppose it was harder in those days to know one knew someone who was gay, and have an attitude one way or the other.

  5. Yes--and I take Mallon to be saying not that there were no women who knew gay men in that period but that this particular female character of his would not have been aware, eh? Giving him the benefit of the doubt, anyway, because otherwise it's not really sensible...