So I'm reading Ellen Gilchrist's new book of short stories.
IDK if you're familiar with Gilchrist. She's a compulsively readable writer of middle-brow fiction (though to be fair she won the National Book Award) who lives here in Northwest Arkansas, and who also lived in New Orleans for a while.
She also comes from money, and has (and I think has always had) tons of money.
Her stories frequently take on a didactic tone (which tone I recognize, since I tend toward didactic myself), especially when she is writing to or about women -- she tends to lecture women about how they should behave toward their bodies and their men.
You need to exercise. You need to stay away from men who drink. You need to stay away from men who are weak, whiny, artistic poseurs -- go for big manly men (like Ellen's daddy, I suspect).
And -- this is crucial -- you need to be rich.
God, wealth is at the crux of it all. Her characters are all rich. She started writing one story in this latest collection about a character who was (semi)-poor, with student debt, who had to be in the National Guard to pay off her student loans.
But, by the time we were halfway through the story, this student had a tenure-track job and a three-bedroom house with hardwood floors in Fayetteville, Arkansas that was entirely paid off, and we had forgotten that those student loans even existed. I mean, there was some hand-waving about how the house and the job had come to be, but the fact is, Gilchrist just can't do it: at her root, she knows poor people are sad little losers, and she won't write losers.
It's just such a strange worldview to read. Almost like a Martian worldview. This woman and I live less than sixty miles apart; not twenty years ago we were drunk at the same party; yet in a very real sense, we don't even live on the same planet.
Gilchrist, I think -- like many other people who have always lived in that bubble of wealth -- is truly convinced that virtue and success are inevitably connected. Hard work, really, and toughness are all you need. Do your job and wealth, beauty, and good things will come raining down on you.
I mean, that's how winner happen, right? They work hard and make good choices and don't whine?
And therefore it follows, ipso facto, that anyone who does not have success, who is not a brilliant winner, living in a lovely three-bedroom house with hardwood floors (paid off, of course) and a tenure-track job, I mean obviously, just did not work hard and make good choices and should stop whining, because all your fault, loser.
13 hours ago