In cinema, as we all know, there are actors and there are stars. The actors -- protean, endlessly versatile -- are personified by Alec Guinness or, more recently, by women like Cate Blanchett. The stars are always, inexorably, grandly, themselves: John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Jack Nicholson. This division is not commonly applied to literature, but it can readily serve: Anton Chekhov, Eudora Welty, Alice Munro are, as it were, actors, writers who disappear, God-like, behind their works; Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, unforgettable in their insistent stylistic consistency, are stars. An underlying gender bias seems to follow upon this distinction, and the female literary star can seem a rare breed. Lynn Freed is such a writer, one whose work is characterized by its separation from her peers' and its similarity to itself.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
writers who disappear, God-like, behind their works
From 'The Curse of the Appropriate Man': What Women Want by Claire Messud, review of The Curse of the Appropriate Man by Lynn Freed: