Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thank You Maeve Binchy For Creating Life in Your Books

The publishing world lost a wonderful author last week. Maeve Binchy, best known for her novels set in Ireland died at 72. Her novels were translated into 37 languages and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. Did you know her books have outsold those of other Irish writers such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Edna O'Brien and Roddy Doyle?

One of her best known books, and unfortunately the only one I read by Maeve was Circle of Friends. I read this in high school and adored it to pieces because of the lovely relationship between two friends. I also adore the 1995 movie that was based on the book staring Minnie Driver, Chris O’Donnell and at the time, an unfamiliar actor- Colin Firth. I developed a small crush on O’Donnell because of the movie.

Maeve was married to her husband, Gordon for 45 years and they didn’t have any children.  For some reason because Maeve didn’t have children because she was infertile, this was the subject of an article for the Telegraph UK by Amanda Craig, some author I never heard of. The title of the article is insulting, as well as the tone of the article Craig has written:

Apparently because Maeve didn’t have children and never experienced motherhood, Amanda Craig asks, or assumes Maeve must have missed out on something big and that her writing perhaps suffered in some way because of it. Craig also brings up lesbian authors like Emma Donoghue, whose book, Room, was an incredible reading experience for me. (I was a blubbering mess while I read). Room is about the undying love and sacrifice a mother has for their child and visa-versa. I had no idea Emma was a lesbian when I read Room, nor do I care. Also Room is from the POV of a five year old boy, so there’s no way Emma can truly know what a five year old is thinking or feeling. Should that make a difference? So what if a female author writes about motherhood and children and doesn’t have children of her own or children who came from her womb? What if an author isn’t married and yet writes about marriage. Are we saying authors shouldn’t write such a subject because they don’t know the true dynamics of what a marriage entails?

Craig goes onto say about Maeve: “Maeve Binchy’s warmth and interest in other people included their families, but I can’t help but feel that her detailed portraits of ordinary life might not have been so predicated on the relationships between men and women had she had a child. “We’re nothing if we’re not loved,” she said in an interview. “When you meet somebody who is more important to you than yourself, that has to be the most important thing in life, really.”

No matter what your experience of adult love, there is nothing as strong as the bond between a mother and a child. One reason why so many contemporary women writers have focused on this is that it is new territory, precisely because the great female writers of the past had not experienced it.”

Craig also has the audacity to imply that Maeve’s writing is lacking because, “Binchy, whose first novel was about a 20-year friendship between two women, didn’t need the experience of motherhood to write about love and friendship in a way that charmed millions. But she might have dug deeper, charming less but enlightening more, had she done so.”

Here I have to go, WTF? Just because a female author has never given birth or experienced motherhood, is she less enlightened and doesn’t know what love and friendship truly is? But if she had been a mother, she would understand this better?

This angers me greatly because I made a decision a long time ago never to have children and the possibility of marriage for me is nil to none. I guess some may think I’m lacking in life and god forbid I decided to write a book about marriage or children, because apparently I won’t know what I’m doing because I haven’t experienced it.

Why should we care if an author hasn’t experienced what they’re writing as long as they do it well?  There are authors writing about vampires and werewolves, including female authors who write M/M romance, as well as male authors writing romance and amazing heroines and female characters. Say what you will about Nicholas Sparks, but his female characters are amazingly written based on The Notebooks and A Walk to Remember, the only two books I’ve read from him. Stephen King has always written strong and three-dimensional female characters. Check out The Shining, Lisey’s Story and The Stand as proof of this. Based on Craig’s analysis, or perhaps I'm looking too much into this, she also feel these authors who aren’t werewolves, vampires or female authors writing M/M romance, or straight authors writing LGBT fiction shouldn’t write these books because they will never experience the real emotion behind the story and characters because they’re not them.

I really wonder what was Amanda Craig’s motivation for writing such an article about Maeve Binchy? Why no mention of her long lasting marriage or if any research had been done, Craig may have found out Maeve had a fulfilling life surrounded by friends and family. Because if Maeve's inability to have children and Craig criticizing this, she has insulted Maeve on so many levels.

Regardless of Craig pointing out what some may think is a major fault and makes a woman less than a woman because she can't have children, Maeve will be remembered for her wonderful books and having a fulfilling life regardless if she created life.

Amanda Craig, Maeve did create life in her books. How wrong you are and how sad and insulting for you to think this way.



Anna said...

Wonderful post Kate! I was sad to hear about Ms. Binchy's passing. I fell in love with the Circle of Friends movie when it was first released and I went straight out to get the book and loved the book even more. :)

Shame on Amanda Craig.

Kate@Midnight Book Girl said...

Binchy is one of my all time favorite authors, so the Amanda Craig article pissed me off severely- enough that I wrote about it too. It really just seems like she's trying to be superior to a much beloved, and now dead, author. I get that having kids changes your life, but so do lots of experiences. And honestly, isn't it kind of easy to love your own kids since you are responsible for half their dna? I find the ability to love people who we have no blood ties with to be even more meaningful, because our hearts choose them. I've never heard of Amanda Craig before, and I won't be reading her novels if her only qualification for being a writer is a working reproduction system. And to come out with the article on the day Binchy was buried is the lowest of the low. Ugh!