Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me
Deirdre Coyle
1.6K138

There is more anger than insight in this piece.

You’re a good writer. I wish you had spent more time interrogating your anger, rather than just expressing it. For example, you write: “The choice [to publish] was mine to make, and this is, of course, why it enrages me so much when men exploit women’s sexual suffering for Art.”

I want to follow the logic of this sentence. The word “exploit” implies (1) derivation of a benefit; and (2) unfair or unjust acquisition of it. Is creation of “art” (regardless of whether it is capitalized) a benefit? For the sake of argument, let’s say yes. At the least, an author’s fame and speaking fees can be considered one.

Is it unfair or unjust to depict someone else’s suffering? For a man to depict a woman’s? This is a fascinating question, but you don’t talk about it. You shortcircuit the conversation by using the word “exploit.”

It is possible to intelligently discuss this question against the backdrop of one’s own lived experience. Zadie Smith does just that in this month’s Harper’s. And for what it’s worth, she seems to disagree with you. At the least, she discusses the question honestly rather than opting for snark in a capital “a.”

We can’t all write like Zadie. But you have talent. Even if us plebes have no hope of it, you just might.