Be Literary And Multiply?

Jun 18 2013 @ 5:12pm

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Lauren Sandler suggests that the success of female writers is linked to them having only one child:

It was only when I was working on a book investigating what it means to have, and to be, an only child that I realized how many of the writers I revere had only children themselves. Alongside Sontag: Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Hardwick, Margaret Atwood, Ellen Willis, and more. Someone once asked Alice Walker if women (well, female artists) should have children. She replied, “They should have children—assuming this is of interest to them—but only one.” Why? “Because with one you can move,” she said. “With more than one you’re a sitting duck.”

Author Jane Smiley pops up in the comments section to dispute Sandler’s premise:

The key is not having one child, it is living in a place where there is excellent daycare and a social world that allows fathers to have the time and the motivation to fully share in raising kids.

Zadie Smith adds that she could “really go on all day” with her rebuttal:

I have two children. Dickens had ten – I think Tolstoy did, too. Did anyone for one moment worry that those men were becoming too father-ish to be writer-esque? Does the fact that Heidi Julavitz, Nikita Lalwani, Nicole Krauss, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vendela Vida, Curtis Sittenfeld, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison and so on and so forth (i could really go on all day with that list) have multiple children make them lesser writers? Are four children a problem for the writer Michael Chabon – or just for his wife the writer Ayelet Waldman? The idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd.

What IS a threat to all women’s freedoms is the issue of time, which is the same problem whether you are a writer, factory worker or nurse. We need decent public daycare services, partners who do their share, affordable childcare and/or a supportive community of friends and family. As for the issue of singles versus multiples verses none at all, each to their own! But as the parent of multiples I can assure Ms Sandler that two kids entertaining each other in one room gives their mother in another room a surprising amount of free time she would not have otherwise.

Earlier Dish on Sandler’s new book on single children here. On the image seen above:

14-year-old Zev from Natick, Massachusetts, has taken the photography world by storm with his surreal photo manipulations. Better known by the nickname of ‘fiddle oak’, Zev presents a highly imaginative portfolio of surreal self-portraits, which he created together with his sister Nellie (aged 17). His work seems to mirror the transition from the fairy-tale childhood worlds into those that are way more complicated and still unknown.

Website: fiddleoak.wordpress.com, flickr