Ok, I have a question.
A blog popped up on Freshly Pressed the other day that gave me pause. It is called The Reluctant Mom and it is an extremely candid account of a woman’s post natal ambivalence to her children coupled strangely with an overwhelming desire for a fourth child.
But what got me thinking was not so much this interesting dichotomy as the complete nakedness with which she describes her relationship with her husband. and children.
Here’s a small sample of her About Me section:
“The arrival of this baby made me anxious, paranoid, depressed and severely unhappy.
But, and I really must say but, I was not unhappy with him – of course I loved him with that fierceness of a love that a mother feels for a her child. She knows she would lay down her life for him at the drop of a hat – no the pain and the unhappiness I felt was for me, my life, my relationship and well pretty much everything.
I struggled with ‘bouts of depression that had moments of light relief and others with shadows of wanting to end it all.
I hated myself. I hated the fact that I could not cope. I felt dreadfully alone and I began to hate Kennith because it was all his fault – well who else was I going to blame?
I felt abandoned and angry because I was becoming more dependent on him. Dependency is a very ugly and frightening word for me.
Kennith (sic) assisted by decided nothing says abandonment quite like going off to do a two year MBA!!
I decided – I, not we, I – at my darkest lowest point, that I wanted to have a second child. I can’t explain rationally why, it was a primal urge and had all the makings of a breakdown.”
The vast number of comments on the blog were also breathtaking in their poignancy and nakedness.
Here’s an example taken from one of the comments which ran to almost, I kid you not, I counted, 1000 words:
“It took me years to find peace, I think the fact that cancer had taken so much from me – my youth and my mobility, and now here was yet something else that it had taken, my fertility and the decision of how many children I would have. I resented my husband for a long time for “making” me stop trying. I was prepared to try anything and everything – donor eggs, surrogacy, adoption. He felt we had to focus on what we had and not keep spending vast sums of money on my dream.”
It all left me thinking. What is there left for literature to do?
I always thought you wrote a novel by peopling it with characters who have a problem. And as they walk around the problem, or drive over it, or attack it with a sledge hammer, or whatever it is they feel the need to do, you lay them bare. With a slice of your pen (or keyboard) you open them up chest to belly and let their insides dangle out.
Essentially, you tried to get inside the head of your character and reveal it to your reader.
All in the name of good literature.
But how can you compete with blogs which tell, in great detail, that blogger’s personal life? With facts and photos and at the end comments which tell even more self revealing true stories.
I ask you. What’s a novel left to do?
photo by unprose (flickr)