Susan Johnson Interview

Susan Johnson, author of Life in Seven Mistakes, has reprinted an interview she gave with "The European English Messenger" journal.

Q: The idea of a writer struggling to combine the demands of creation with a child and husband is a common floor in some of your books such as A Better Woman, The Broken Book and Life in Seven Mistakes. Can it be seen as a gleam of your own life?

Most definitely. I read an article by the Irish writer and Booker Prize winner Anne Enright recently in which she said that she didn't understand writers who felt children were the enemies of promise, and she felt that the pram in the hall was a fine thing for a writer. Well, yes, I agree emotionally -- having children is the ultimate way of engaging with the world in a very hands-on, visceral way, and it stretches you emotionally in very challenging ways (Fay Weldon says you can believe you are a nice person until you have children!) However, it is also exhausting, time-consuming, expensive and very, very hard. I have discovered that, deep-down, I believe in a very unreconstructed, antediluvian way that a "real" artist gives her life over to art, and doesn't compromise her art by having children! In some ways I DO think that having children slowed me up, and profoundly compromised me for all times. And yet having children also engaged me with life on the deepest level, and who knows if my writing might be a more sterile, impoverished thing if I hadn't had them? I think all writers are quite good at giving reasons why they are as never as brilliant as they might have been, and perhaps the having/not having of children argument is simply another version of that! (Arguably the world's deepest, richest, most wonderful books have been written by childless women, so having a child is therefore not a passport into a "better" or deeper emotional state, or resonance: having a child does not automatically make you a "better" person, or indeed a better writer). I do know my life is enriched by my children, but I am not entirely sure my art is very, very hard for me to combine writing with running a household, having children, and a marriage. Most of the world's greatest women writers did not have children. This is not an accidental fact.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 13, 2008 10:02 AM.

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