Discussion → Someone else's novel

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    Ann Bogle
    Feb 25, 08:51pm

    Two years ago, I was in a writing group in NYC with a few people I had known at the cwp at U of Houston, along with a few people I had met that year in NYC. Among our tasks was to read the conventional, yet edgy-content novel of a long-time friend. In this novel, a 30-year-old, rather newly married white woman is caught stealing lingerie from Neiman Marcus in Houston by store security. The panties cost $250; the bras $450; the Hermes scarves $400, etc. Her philosophy professor husband (at Rice) is aghast to learn the prices of the underthings after his wife gets caught. Funny.

    I wanted the novel to be published, but there may have been gaps in it. There is no tension in the novel related to lawbreaking, as I thought there ought to be. The novelist reported that the level of lawbreaking in the story would be a felony. (I suppose there was an unwritten subtext: white people don't pay for their crimes, something I personally rejected in the discussion since I'd had a white boyfriend in Houston who had been in prison for a non-violent federal crime when he was seventeen. He was a rocker when I knew him.)

    The novel (along with several drafts of an 80-page book length series poem that became a book last year) occupied our group all year, and then it occupied our group after the group split up, due partly to geography, distance & nearness, because the novelist herself commented that she'd gotten nothing from the discussion from the group. The other members, feeling apologetic, tried to make up for this lack in us. ... I reflected: In a year, we had read only 10 of one of the poets' poems (a woman poet living in Harlem) and we had read only 10 per cent of my weblog that I'd asked the group to consider as a mixed-genre "book."

    Panties. Do they have a scent? Not in the novel. What about Woolite? I read a poem at Facebook posted by a woman poet of Mexican heritage, who worked as a domestic for the wealthiest family in Chicago. Her first assignment was to handwash a wicker basket of panties that belonged to the family's 20-something-year-old daughter.

    Is there sex in the novel? Yes, married sex, and a bit of compensatory adultery. Religion? Yes, Sir Thomas Moore. The novelist wanted for her readership undergraduate women at UT Austin: chick lit., I said.

    The novel has no agent. The novelist's husband seems to have said -- did he? -- that NYC agents (who? how many?) blackballed the novel based on the novelist's friendships -- who? Us? Poets: how? That they are in Alcoholics Anonymous? Is it her age (she's approaching 50)? It's not a fault of the prose. Timeframe? Set before 9/11.

    These sex threads in this group have caused me to realize that as readers in the small-group setting, we asked too little of the novel we focused on in our discussion. Our questions were too general. Think of Mansfield's short story "Bliss," yet the novel is a 300-page (cut to 225-page) long story. It had taken seven years to write and rewrite it. There was fear in going into it.

    What am I asking? Sex as an entry into economics and politics? Commercial forms of censorship?

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    Ann Bogle
    Feb 25, 09:10pm

    Sir Thomas More.

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