On Anger In Writing

In an interview, Jamaica Kincaid addresses being labeled an “angry” writer:

It’s an interesting thing, the angry thing. And I wouldn’t mind being labeled as “angry,” if it wasn’t used once again to denigrate and belittle. First of all, I don’t feel I’m angry. I feel as though I’m describing something true. If I had stabbed my husband, I could understand being called “angry.” If I had an affair with my husband’s best friend (an imagined husband, mind you; I now have to be careful about these things!) and written about that experience, I could see the anger. But I’m not doing that. When I wrote A Small Place, the New York Times reviewed it in “Briefly Noted” and the thing the reviewer said, for the most part, was “Oh, it’s so angry.” I think that’s where the angry started, with A Small Place.

I’ve come to see that I’m saying something that people generally do not want to hear. In my writing, I’m often describing a universal situation. A situation in which human beings often choose to violate each other. Sometimes I happen to explore that in terms of the black/white dynamic. Generally, a white person does not like me to say, or does not like to be told, “You know, what you did was incredibly wrong.” …

In my writing I’m trying to explore the violations people commit upon each other. And the important thing isn’t whether I’m angry. The more important thing is, is it true?

(Hat tip: The Hairpin)