January 29, 2014

Daddy Writes

Shane Jones has a very thoughtful essay in The Paris Review about writing and fatherhood. It makes me wish he'd write another that picks up where he leaves off, and that thus deals a decisive blow to his troubled premise, that you can't do both:

One of the most popular quotations about creativity and parenthood is Cyril Connolly's: "There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall." This aphorism, snobbish in its dismissal of human distraction, has been passed down through generations of artists as a black warning banner--Have Children, Be Creatively Screwed Forever.

Having a child isn't easy, of course. When my son, Julian, was born sixteen months ago, I became intimately acquainted with sleep deprivation and time constraints. The third night after we'd brought him home, I remember being in bed, so mentally and physically exhausted that when I looked up at where the ceiling and the wall met, I saw the seam crack open, revealing a horizon of white light and red lava.

Jones is smart enough to identify what he's going through, and to see the folly of his admired authors who adhere to the Pram in the Hall Theory and apparently sacrifice or denigrate the raising of their kids for their work. But while he also recognizes many writer dads who did manage to do both well--including Nabokov, who apparently kept near-totally silent about being an at-home dad--in the end, it's who's not there that surprises me.

Jones doesn't mention any female writers at all besides Doris Lessing, who left her kids with their father. Surely there must be something to learn from the work and experience of women who have been forced by history and culture to shoulder exactly this burden. But it sounds like the thought hasn't crossed his mind yet.

The Pram In The Hall [theparisreview]

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