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  • To avoid the hosts having to watch the 20 minute talk, follow this link and then click on the one called The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
    I remember it as the books around her; but whether she mentions school or not, MaryLouise' point is still valid.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    I did not say that you (or anyone else) cannot think outside your culture. I'm pretty sure I've said it is possible to do so.
    But you are a white male British human and every bit of that colours your thinking. Every bit of that filters your perceptions of other cultures. Not understanding this will inhibit processing other people's experiences. The less a problem one thinks understanding other people is, the less they likely actually understand.

    I have the deepest feeling I'm being authorsplained. I am absolutely challenging you here, on the notion that I and other authors cannot park our culture, observe it from the outside, deconstruct it and build it back up again in new and different configurations, and go on from there to do the same to other cultures, even and especially ones we've just made up.

    The test of good fiction is not whether an author successfully processes other people's experiences. No one in the industry cares about that - and neither should they. It's whether the author can construct a sufficiently robust narrative to make readers of any and all cultural backgrounds feel vicarious emotion, for a price point somewhere around the £10 mark for a paperback.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    To avoid the hosts having to watch the 20 minute talk, follow this link and then click on the one called The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
    I remember it as the books around her; but whether she mentions school or not, MaryLouise' point is still valid.

    It may be true but it's not relevant to the point I was making.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    I did not say that you (or anyone else) cannot think outside your culture. I'm pretty sure I've said it is possible to do so.
    But you are a white male British human and every bit of that colours your thinking. Every bit of that filters your perceptions of other cultures. Not understanding this will inhibit processing other people's experiences. The less a problem one thinks understanding other people is, the less they likely actually understand.

    I have the deepest feeling I'm being authorsplained. I am absolutely challenging you here, on the notion that I and other authors cannot park our culture, observe it from the outside, deconstruct it and build it back up again in new and different configurations, and go on from there to do the same to other cultures, even and especially ones we've just made up.
    Again, I did not say that it could not be done. I am saying that it is not as simple as oft thought. And it isn't "authorsplaining". Any art has an author and an audience. The audience is part of the process and whether or not they can recreate the art, they can express their POV on the effectiveness of the author.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    The test of good fiction is not whether an author successfully processes other people's experiences. No one in the industry cares about that - and neither should they. It's whether the author can construct a sufficiently robust narrative to make readers of any and all cultural backgrounds feel vicarious emotion, for a price point somewhere around the £10 mark for a paperback.
    And the test of whether the work is worth the freight is a variable one depending on the reader as well as the writer. For brown fans of science fiction, reading has meant ignoring poor depictions. Or as MaryLouise points out, sometimes internalising them.

  • On a total tangent, I've got a 24 carat gold ring, which is actually pretty common in Vietnamese culture. Though as you doubtless know, it's not the sort of thing you can wear and never take off for 50 years, because certain tasks will bend it.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Admin
    edited February 2020
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Again, I did not say that it could not be done. I am saying that it is not as simple as oft thought.
    Literally no one has said its simple. No one. So I have no idea what the point is you're making here above "fire is hot".
    And it isn't "authorsplaining". Any art has an author and an audience. The audience is part of the process and whether or not they can recreate the art, they can express their POV on the effectiveness of the author.

    No. Art arises out of an act of hubris. It says, "I can do this." Sometimes it says, "I can do this better than anyone else." And occasionally, it says "Only I can do this."

    I don't consider my (potential) audience at all. They are not part of my process. Yes, once it's published, it's not my book any more, it's theirs, to do with it what they want. They can love it, hate it, keep it forever or throw it against the wall. Not my problem. I'm already writing the next one. (Obvious it is a problem in a commercial sense, but not in an artistic sense.)
    And the test of whether the work is worth the freight is a variable one depending on the reader as well as the writer. For brown fans of science fiction, reading has meant ignoring poor depictions. Or as MaryLouise points out, sometimes internalising them.
    For many, many fans of science fiction, reading has meant ignoring poor depictions. You seem to think that because of default-white straight male (human) characters, I am personally well-served by the default-white straight male (human) characters.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Again, I did not say that it could not be done. I am saying that it is not as simple as oft thought.
    Literally no one has said its simple. No one. So I have no idea what the point is you're making here above "fire is hot".
    By not acknowledging it is difficult (which you hadn't before this), by ignoring parts of what I write and reframing it into a smaller, less nuanced box, you sort of imply this. Not understanding how one's culture, especially being in the default culture, affects one's writing comes with the implication of not understanding other people's perfectly either.
    And it isn't "authorsplaining". Any art has an author and an audience. The audience is part of the process and whether or not they can recreate the art, they can express their POV on the effectiveness of the author.

    No. Art arises out of an act of hubris. It says, "I can do this." Sometimes it says, "I can do this better than anyone else." And occasionally, it says "Only I can do this."[/quote]The artists motivation is whatever it is for the individual. The art is another matter. You might not care about the audience, but that doesn't take away or negate how they react to your art. It is not "authorsplaining" when the audience opines on whether your efforts worked or not.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    For many, many fans of science fiction, reading has meant ignoring poor depictions. You seem to think that because of default-white straight male (human) characters, I am personally well-served by the default-white straight male (human) characters.
    How well the service is depends on various factors, of course, but served you are. That is part of the blindness of being the default is that you don't see the commonality. You see the individual quirks of the character and compare them against your individual quirks and you think "That is different to me". As much as we like to think we are individuals, we are also part of our culture.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I think this is a more difficult question to answer than we think because as readers, it's very difficult to get outside our own experience of life. So that will get in the way.

    What highlit this for me was reading an airport historical novel that an intelligent but not literary female relative passed on to me with, 'you might enjoy this' meaning she'd read it on holiday and enjoyed it.

    I read it, quite enjoyed it as lightweight rubbish, but couldn't at first work out why it didn't feel right to me. It just didn't ring true. Then it dawned on me that although it was written in the first person as a man, a three musketeers sort of character, the writer was a woman. So she had her hero thinking, feeling and reacting to life around him as though - I think - a woman would. I say 'I think' because as I'm not a woman, I don't actually know. But her male character just was not how an actual bloke is.

    Perhaps a better writer could have written this better. Perhaps a better writer would have structured the novel differently. Perhaps a better writer would have written a different novel.

    So far so good, even if this makes some shipmates cringe. What I'm actually saying is that I think it's impossible to say whether Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Precious Ramotswe is convincing unless you are female and come from Botswana. I, as a man from the UK, could say whether I find his portrayal convincing or unconvincing, but I'd hesitate to say whether my opinion on this is of any value to anyone, even me.

    I also have no idea, and cannot judge, whether there is a male novelist anywhere who has written a novel from the standpoint of a woman who has managed to do so convincingly. I'd be unable to tell.

    I think I'd also say that unless you're a very good writer indeed, if you're going to write a novel with a single central character, it's a good idea to make them the same sex as you are and fairly like you.
  • I would dearly love to hear what the unblokey bits were. Very curious. Please?
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Again, I did not say that it could not be done. I am saying that it is not as simple as oft thought.
    Literally no one has said its simple. No one. So I have no idea what the point is you're making here above "fire is hot".
    By not acknowledging it is difficult (which you hadn't before this), by ignoring parts of what I write and reframing it into a smaller, less nuanced box, you sort of imply this. Not understanding how one's culture, especially being in the default culture, affects one's writing comes with the implication of not understanding other people's perfectly either.
    No, no and no. This is bad faith. You are taking what I haven't said, while I am taking what you have. I have not said that I don't understand my own culture, I have not said that that it is easy to write outside it.
    The artists motivation is whatever it is for the individual. The art is another matter. You might not care about the audience, but that doesn't take away or negate how they react to your art. It is not "authorsplaining" when the audience opines on whether your efforts worked or not.

    You are talking about two entirely different things. Art does not depend on an audience's reaction. What you're describing is criticism of art, an independent process. It is a category error to conflate the two.
    How well the service is depends on various factors, of course, but served you are. That is part of the blindness of being the default is that you don't see the commonality. You see the individual quirks of the character and compare them against your individual quirks and you think "That is different to me". As much as we like to think we are individuals, we are also part of our culture.

    The only blindness on show is that I have said exactly this, and now you're trying to tell it to me as if I haven't said it on page 1.

    What is it that you want from this discussion? What is your thesis here?
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    No, no and no. This is bad faith. You are taking what I haven't said, while I am taking what you have.
    Not accurate. You've selectively addressed what I've said, which changed the meaning. Yeah, I am inferring a bit, but that is how language works.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    I have not said that I don't understand my own culture,
    Except you did say this:
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    Being white is, uncontroversially, just one aspect of a character. That they are white doesn't mean they are anything "like me". We share a skin colour. Yay.
    This does not demonstrate a significant awareness to me. Being a white British Male comes with the bulk of the culture. It comes with commonalities difficult to see. It is how our minds work. We focus on, and give weight to, that which is different. We do not see that which is the same. It is part of what makes this Emo Phillips joke* so relatable and funny.

    *First one on the page.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    I have not said that that it is easy to write outside it.
    IMO, you've sort of implied it. And it jibes with an old conversation we've had on this, but I don't remember what thread it was on and I don't have Crœsos ability to find old posts.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    You are talking about two entirely different things. Art does not depend on an audience's reaction. What you're describing is criticism of art, an independent process. It is a category error to conflate the two.
    Art for the artist's sake is rubbish unless you place your work in the shed, never to be seen. As soon as an artist presents it to an audience, the audience is part of the process.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    How well the service is depends on various factors, of course, but served you are. That is part of the blindness of being the default is that you don't see the commonality. You see the individual quirks of the character and compare them against your individual quirks and you think "That is different to me". As much as we like to think we are individuals, we are also part of our culture.

    The only blindness on show is that I have said exactly this, and now you're trying to tell it to me as if I haven't said it on page 1.
    The bit I quoted above counters this assertion. See also below.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    What is it that you want from this discussion?
    I said you were 'white male British human' and that coloured your thinking. You truncated that to 'My culture is human'. While nothing more is explicit, omitting the white male British implies that this is unimportant. Especially in conjunction with the response I quoted above.

    The primary thing I want from this discussion is for people to understand just how much being part of a culture shapes who they are. Most people don't. I don't think I would be as aware if I were in only one culture and if I were not challenged about half of my heritage by people who share it.

    The secondary, but related topic is for white people* to be aware that they have the privilege to write other cultures/colours when brown skinned people do not have the same privilege in writing their own.
    I'm not saying white people cannot, or even should not, write other colours and cultures. I'm just saying that they should be aware and, hopefully, more respectful and careful in their writing.

    *It is not only white people who can fall prey to this, but since they are the dominant culture, they have the most opportunity.
  • LouiseLouise Epiphanies Host
    Hosting

    Accusations of bad faith need to go to the Hell board as do any personal conflicts. Please also be careful about characterising other people's posts in ways that can come across to them as implying bad faith/sleight of hand, even if you don't use the actual words.
    Thanks
    Louise
    Epiphanies host
    hosting off
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    edited February 2020
    mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Do you mean Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria? Anyone who has grown up in a former British colony in Africa has to study English literature in order to pass O-levels and A-levels and get into university. It isn't that 'all the books around her' were about white people so much as that her own country's literature was not on the syllabus or in school libraries.

    Did you see her talk? She wasn't talking about O-levels or A-levels, she was talking about when she was a child, and the books "around her" were the books in her own home.

    @mousethief, I was asking because many black writers from Africa have given TED talks and I wasn't sure who you were talking about. Africa's a big complex continent. What I was saying wasn't contradicting Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie, but was intended to indicate why books about white people would be so prevalent and studied in such detail. The same would hold true in former French and Portuguese colonies where education followed European models.

    I've read most if not all of Adichie's work, including Purple Hibiscus which is all about growing up in Enugu in Nigeria and her historical fiction Half of the Yellow Sun on the Nigerian Civil War. She talks a great deal about colonial cultural influence and having to unlearn it.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Enoch wrote: »

    So far so good, even if this makes some shipmates cringe. What I'm actually saying is that I think it's impossible to say whether Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Precious Ramotswe is convincing unless you are female and come from Botswana. I, as a man from the UK, could say whether I find his portrayal convincing or unconvincing, but I'd hesitate to say whether my opinion on this is of any value to anyone, even me.

    @Enoch, you need to remember that Alexander McCall Smith was first published by Polygon in Scotland and Little, Brown in London. He was writing for the UK market, for white readers. His books are sold in Botswana -- there were a couple of good bookshops in Gaberone until recently -- but his primary readership was expat, and white and British. Because his portrayal of the society was positive and in a romantic comedy/thriller genre rather than gritty realism, his work hasn't attracted the kind of criticism you might expect. What most people living in Botswana agreed on, from local reviews, was that he got the details about law and court procedures right. He knew Botswana very well.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    It isn't easy to write across gender but it can be done: one example I found convincing was Adelle Waldman writing male interiority in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

    Talking about sci-fi for a moment, every now and again readers still think James Tiptree was a man (pseudonym of Alice Bradley Sheldon). Nobody questioned Tiptree's depiction of male characters until it was discovered 'he' was a female. Which brings up the question of what we as readers might project onto texts we think were written by women.
  • MaryLouise wrote: »
    It isn't easy to write across gender but it can be done: one example I found convincing was Adelle Waldman writing male interiority in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

    Talking about sci-fi for a moment, every now and again readers still think James Tiptree was a man (pseudonym of Alice Bradley Sheldon). Nobody questioned Tiptree's depiction of male characters until it was discovered 'he' was a female. Which brings up the question of what we as readers might project onto texts we think were written by women.

    That is certainly a problem. I remember as a teenager devouring LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy (as it was at the time), and never got the feeling her depiction of male POV was bad. Although it was the most sexless group of teenage males I have ever read.
  • MaryLouise wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Do you mean Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria? Anyone who has grown up in a former British colony in Africa has to study English literature in order to pass O-levels and A-levels and get into university. It isn't that 'all the books around her' were about white people so much as that her own country's literature was not on the syllabus or in school libraries.

    Did you see her talk? She wasn't talking about O-levels or A-levels, she was talking about when she was a child, and the books "around her" were the books in her own home.

    @mousethief, I was asking because many black writers from Africa have given TED talks and I wasn't sure who you were talking about. Africa's a big complex continent. What I was saying wasn't contradicting Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie, but was intended to indicate why books about white people would be so prevalent and studied in such detail. The same would hold true in former French and Portuguese colonies where education followed European models.

    In her talk it was about her being a little girl. What is studied at A- and O-level is irrelevant to that.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    So far so good, even if this makes some shipmates cringe. What I'm actually saying is that I think it's impossible to say whether Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Precious Ramotswe is convincing unless you are female and come from Botswana. I, as a man from the UK, could say whether I find his portrayal convincing or unconvincing, but I'd hesitate to say whether my opinion on this is of any value to anyone, even me.

    The only position which a non-Botswana person could take is whether you were convinced that the portrayal was accurate - whether it be so or not.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Do you mean Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria? Anyone who has grown up in a former British colony in Africa has to study English literature in order to pass O-levels and A-levels and get into university. It isn't that 'all the books around her' were about white people so much as that her own country's literature was not on the syllabus or in school libraries.

    Did you see her talk? She wasn't talking about O-levels or A-levels, she was talking about when she was a child, and the books "around her" were the books in her own home.

    @mousethief, I was asking because many black writers from Africa have given TED talks and I wasn't sure who you were talking about. Africa's a big complex continent. What I was saying wasn't contradicting Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie, but was intended to indicate why books about white people would be so prevalent and studied in such detail. The same would hold true in former French and Portuguese colonies where education followed European models.

    In her talk it was about her being a little girl. What is studied at A- and O-level is irrelevant to that.
    Her talk was about the danger of a single narrative and that being the colonial narrative. What is studied in school is part of that, even if she didn't mention it in that particular talk.

  • MaryLouise wrote: »
    It isn't easy to write across gender but it can be done: one example I found convincing was Adelle Waldman writing male interiority in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

    Talking about sci-fi for a moment, every now and again readers still think James Tiptree was a man (pseudonym of Alice Bradley Sheldon). Nobody questioned Tiptree's depiction of male characters until it was discovered 'he' was a female. Which brings up the question of what we as readers might project onto texts we think were written by women.
    I think some level of projection is inevitable. And since one can write characters that are effectively neutral, we might perceive the ones written by women as more authentic.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Do you mean Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria? Anyone who has grown up in a former British colony in Africa has to study English literature in order to pass O-levels and A-levels and get into university. It isn't that 'all the books around her' were about white people so much as that her own country's literature was not on the syllabus or in school libraries.

    Did you see her talk? She wasn't talking about O-levels or A-levels, she was talking about when she was a child, and the books "around her" were the books in her own home.

    @mousethief, I was asking because many black writers from Africa have given TED talks and I wasn't sure who you were talking about. Africa's a big complex continent. What I was saying wasn't contradicting Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie, but was intended to indicate why books about white people would be so prevalent and studied in such detail. The same would hold true in former French and Portuguese colonies where education followed European models.

    In her talk it was about her being a little girl. What is studied at A- and O-level is irrelevant to that.
    Her talk was about the danger of a single narrative and that being the colonial narrative. What is studied in school is part of that, even if she didn't mention it in that particular talk.

    Oh, you saw the talk too?
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I think I'd also say that unless you're a very good writer indeed, if you're going to write a novel with a single central character, it's a good idea to make them the same sex as you are and fairly like you.
    The problem if too many people do this is that until there’s more opportunities for diversity of authors, there’s less diversity in literature. So, I guess the answer should really be for people to get better at writing.

    I understand that it’s a lot harder to write people like oneself, but I do think that good research and proof reading should overcome that. I mean, every single historical fiction writer is writing outside of their own culture, and the obvious key to getting it right is research.

    I love the cultural diversity of Jonas Jonasson’s books. He manages to write interesting characters with diversity of age, race, gender, socioeconomic background, worldview... they say “write what you know”, so either he’s had a very diverse life experience, or he’s done his research. Although some of his characters display the Bondesque unflappability that we were talking about in the XY thread.

    I guess “write what you know” is a good shortcut that means less research, but it does limit the potential subject matter available.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I think I'd also say that unless you're a very good writer indeed, if you're going to write a novel with a single central character, it's a good idea to make them the same sex as you are and fairly like you.
    The problem if too many people do this is that until there’s more opportunities for diversity of authors, there’s less diversity in literature. So, I guess the answer should really be for people to get better at writing.

    I understand that it’s a lot harder to write people like oneself, but I do think that good research and proof reading should overcome that. I mean, every single historical fiction writer is writing outside of their own culture, and the obvious key to getting it right is research.

    I love the cultural diversity of Jonas Jonasson’s books. He manages to write interesting characters with diversity of age, race, gender, socioeconomic background, worldview... they say “write what you know”, so either he’s had a very diverse life experience, or he’s done his research. Although some of his characters display the Bondesque unflappability that we were talking about in the XY thread.

    I guess “write what you know” is a good shortcut that means less research, but it does limit the potential subject matter available.

    Part of the problem is that the majors only publish so many books about minority characters per year. If white people write them, then black and other minority authors get fewer books into print. It's a problem.
  • Vanity Fair is often cited as containing an interesting female character written by a man, Becky Sharp. However, she is a recognizable type, the droll adventuress or anti-heroine, although she is quite 3-D. Ironically, I think Thackeray used to say she was him really, so maybe you get a kind of literary transgender, although T is also writing quite satirically.
  • I find the idea that “being a white british male comes with the bulk of the culture” is open to some critique. My reasons are fourfold:

    1. A lack of homogenous culture. Can we consider, for example, Jacob Rees Mogg and Johnny Vegas as having the same cultural formation?
    2. Language. There are three possible native languages that white british people may speak, in addition to numerous dialects. Following the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the work of Gadamer, this will be an important influence on formation.
    3. Family and relationships. Many of us could point to a sister(s) that we have been close to our whole life, and the majority of us had a mother during our formative years. Added to which, for the majority of men their most intimate relationships are with women and have day-to-day lives (e.g. work) that are populated with both women and men. Whether men reflect on this or not, the idea that we are not in relationships of mutual influence and completely lack understanding of other gender positions would make it impossible for most of these relationships to ‘go on’ successfully. As a result, I speculate that a male person might find it easier to write from the perspective of (someone like) his sister than from the perspective of (someone like) Jacob Rees Mogg, despite sharing a gender.
    4. Outsider positions. Differences in income, class, sexuality or disabilities can give an individual an outsider perspective on (at least significant aspects of) their own cultural context, which opens it up to critique.

    Long story short: we might never be able to fully deconstruct our cultural formation, but it is neither monolithic nor totally impervious to reflection, and sits within a relational context. The result of which is that we should not presume that people of a certain gender and ethnicity are (i) all the same or (ii) incapable of understanding differently-categorised others well enough to engage (and write) meaningfully.


  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    edited February 2020
    In my corner of the world we may be about to have a four-hour power cut, so I wanted to get in another angle on 'being seen by others' and how we/they might experience other races, classes, cultures and 'aliens'.

    The science fiction writer I've been reading this last year is Ted Chiang. I began with his novella Hell is the Absence of God on the paradoxes of religious discourse, and then his Story of Your Life, made into the film Arrival in 2016.

    Chiang has been greatly influenced by the the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or linguistic relativity: that the particular language one speaks influences (determines?) the way one thinks about reality, one's own reality and the realities of other mediated through differing languages.. If we look at monolingual societies we might expect to find more consensus about what constitutes a shared reality; in polylingual societies, especially those drawing on suppressed or oral cultures, non-Western languages.

    How far can learning another's language or translation take us in getting to know another person from a very different culture?
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Part of the problem is that the majors only publish so many books about minority characters per year. If white people write them, then black and other minority authors get fewer books into print. It's a problem.
    You’re right. There aren’t easy answers.

    I think that’s why someone like Jonasson’s approach is nice. He writes multiple protagonists from multiple continents. So it maybe sneaks under the radar in that his books aren’t on the surface about minority characters; even when they are. For example, in the Girl who saved the King of Sweden, the protagonist is evidently a South African girl, but there are enough other major characters and plot lines, that, along with the title grounding it in Europe, it doesn’t feel like tokenism.
  • @Cameron, you’re right that white male etc. culture isn’t monolithic, but I think the issue is more about whose stories get told. I want to hear diverse stories from all kinds of people and places I don’t know about, and I hear a lot more stories from certain kinds of people than others.

    As an example, there are far too many movies set in LA. Because Hollywood is in LA. That’s my problem with taking “write what you know” too far. Too many producers seem to know nothing beyond LA with an occasional trip to Vegas.

    Interestingly, with Children’s literature, Terry Deary has spoken about how it’s dominated by middle class female authors, and that’s a problem. He talks about his approach to writing as far too minority in that he’s working class, and writes books that he wants working class kids to read, because nice middle class kids will be reading anyhow, and he wants to promote literacy across the board.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Ricardus wrote: »
    I think part of the problem is the tendency to see members of a minority as representatives *of* that minority, regardless of whether they want to or not.

    (A few years ago a Muslim comedian on Have I Got News For You was asked something about Islam, and he began: 'Well, before I came on here, I spoke to all the other Muslims, and we agreed that ...')

    I think if you have a black character, but you are not trying to write a book about 'the black experience in the UK' or similar, then you should try to discourage this tendency, or at least not actively encourage it.
    There is no one black experience in the UK. But who we are directly affects how we write. It cannot help but do. And out background sets up the world in which we write.
    If one is writing generic characters, then background is irrelevant. But if one is writing a more complete character, than background is important. It isn't representing "the black experience" anymore than writing a white character is representing the white experience. It is about writing an authentic black character.

    Sure. My point is there is a difference between writing a black character in a way that is not inconsistent with how a black person might experience the UK, and trying to editorialise on the lines of 'as a black man, Sadio often thought ...' (hopefully a bit subtler if you're a decent writer). I think it is difficult to do the latter without either a.) indulging in simplistic stereotyping, or b.) the complexities of immigration and integration in the UK becoming a major focus of the book.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Gwai wrote: »
    We have been having a long discussion about whether sci-fi and fantasy portray women well or not. I think that can be applied to other traits too. How is the portrayal of race, disability, or queerness done when written by others. Does anyone who is not a straight white able male see themselves portrayed well in most fiction?

    I listen to the AllAboutAgatha podcast, which is focused on the close reading of Agatha Christie’s puzzle mysteries. They’ve done a couple of episodes where they discuss queer coding in Christie. They recommend a book called Queering Agatha Christie by J C Bernthal. They’ve also done a couple of interview pieces with him.

    I mention this, because he talks about how as a child growing up he was attracted to Christie’s writing partly by those characters who were queer coded - and the subversion of respectability.

    Generally, Christie portrays gay men as effeminate - and often uses them as the ‘obvious’ suspect who then did not actually commit the crime. Whereas, she seems to write more sympathetic portrayals of lesbian couples.

    The writers during the ‘golden age’ were often somewhat of outsiders themselves - and this filters through their writing too. Dorothy Sayers was unusual for her time in being a copywriter. Naigo Marsh was buried alongside her female secretary of 40 years. Gladys Mitchell didn’t try to hide her same sex relationships, and wrote a lot more explicitly about unconventional relationships in her crime novels.

    All of them though, were noticeably racist and colonialist in their attitudes. Christie was particularly anti-Semitic, to an extent that caused complaint from the public after World War II. After the outcry she gave permission to her publishers to alter the text where a problem was perceived.

    Despite this, her books are massively popular internationally - I think this is partly because she is a lot better at character than many give her credit for. Despite the ‘stuck in its time’ detritus you can see aspects of character that have resonance.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Do you mean Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria? Anyone who has grown up in a former British colony in Africa has to study English literature in order to pass O-levels and A-levels and get into university. It isn't that 'all the books around her' were about white people so much as that her own country's literature was not on the syllabus or in school libraries.

    Did you see her talk? She wasn't talking about O-levels or A-levels, she was talking about when she was a child, and the books "around her" were the books in her own home.

    @mousethief, I was asking because many black writers from Africa have given TED talks and I wasn't sure who you were talking about. Africa's a big complex continent. What I was saying wasn't contradicting Chimamandie Ngozi Adichie, but was intended to indicate why books about white people would be so prevalent and studied in such detail. The same would hold true in former French and Portuguese colonies where education followed European models.

    In her talk it was about her being a little girl. What is studied at A- and O-level is irrelevant to that.

    Well, except the set texts in upper school are likely indicative of what was available at all levels. It's probable that her Janet and John books were just that - about white children in a European setting.

    Just as books I read as a child (school, library, home) seldom had Irish characters, and never ones who were also young and female and working class.

    But imagination works with what it can get, and finds correspondences and inspirations in unlikely sources. It's good to have a mirror, but as your man Herbert says:

    A man that looks on glass,
    On it may stay his eye;
    Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
    And then the heaven espy.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I would dearly love to hear what the unblokey bits were. Very curious. Please?
    @Lamb Chopped it's a long time since I read the book. However, it was not so much 'unblokey bits'. It was more that the central character, although he did blokey things, had sword fights, seduced women etc. had what one might call a stereotypical female way of looking at the world, perceiving what was going on. This is difficult to explain but he felt the world around him as containing far more fluid boundaries between one person and another, and particularly between other people and himself than men tend to. So he spent a lot of time wondering how other people felt about him in a way that fits with how women often are in books written by women and not with how men are in books written by men.

    It's safer to write books that describe people from the outside!
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    So far so good, even if this makes some shipmates cringe. What I'm actually saying is that I think it's impossible to say whether Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Precious Ramotswe is convincing unless you are female and come from Botswana. I, as a man from the UK, could say whether I find his portrayal convincing or unconvincing, but I'd hesitate to say whether my opinion on this is of any value to anyone, even me.


    The only position which a non-Botswana person could take is whether you were convinced that the portrayal was accurate - whether it be so or not.
    My point, though, is that as a non-Botswana person, whether I'm convinced or not may be subjectively OK for me, but it's objectively irrelevant.

  • Cameron wrote: »
    I find the idea that “being a white british male comes with the bulk of the culture” is open to some critique. My reasons are fourfold:

    1. A lack of homogenous culture. Can we consider, for example, Jacob Rees Mogg and Johnny Vegas as having the same cultural formation?
    Of course they do. Posh and working class are variations on one culture, not different cultures. Walk into a pub and you might have a number of choices, but they are all British beer. Quite different from Bolivian Pisco sour
    You might taste a bitter and say that it is a different thing to a stout. But a person who doesn't drink beer will see the similarities and call them the same.
    Cameron wrote: »
    2. Language. There are three possible native languages that white british people may speak, in addition to numerous dialects. Following the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the work of Gadamer, this will be an important influence on formation.
    I think SW is incorrect. Culture shapes language. If I learn Mexican Spanish, it doesn't confer Mexican culture onto me.
    Yes, there are variations in culture between Scotland, Wales and England. But they share a great deal as well. A Scot and Welshman and an Englishman are sitting in a pub and in walks an American. The barman tells a joke and all three Brits laugh whilst the American stares blankly.
    Cameron wrote: »
    3. Family and relationships. Many of us could point to a sister(s) that we have been close to our whole life, and the majority of us had a mother during our formative years. Added to which, for the majority of men their most intimate relationships are with women and have day-to-day lives (e.g. work) that are populated with both women and men. Whether men reflect on this or not, the idea that we are not in relationships of mutual influence and completely lack understanding of other gender positions would make it impossible for most of these relationships to ‘go on’ successfully. As a result, I speculate that a male person might find it easier to write from the perspective of (someone like) his sister than from the perspective of (someone like) Jacob Rees Mogg, despite sharing a gender.
    Loads of assumption here. Every single man who doesn't understand women has a mother. Many of them have sisters as well.
    Yes, it is possible for a person to write from another perspective and do it well. I am not disputing this, I am saying it is not as easy as many authors think.
    Cameron wrote: »
    4. Outsider positions. Differences in income, class, sexuality or disabilities can give an individual an outsider perspective on (at least significant aspects of) their own cultural context, which opens it up to critique.
    A gay male Briton is still British. They are outside the default straight part, yes, but they get the rest of the culture. Being an outsider does give one insights into how their outsiderness works against the default. But that doesn't pull them from the base culture completely. There are still many things that provide commonality.
    A goth teen slouching on the pavement in London watching the norms go by might feel disconnected from the culture, but still shares more culture with them than s/he does a goth teen slouching on the pavement watching the norms go by in Gaborone.

    Outsider is a relative term.
  • Gwai wrote: »
    We have been having a long discussion about whether sci-fi and fantasy portray women well or not. I think that can be applied to other traits too. How is the portrayal of race, disability, or queerness done when written by others. Does anyone who is not a straight white able male see themselves portrayed well in most fiction?

    I listen to the AllAboutAgatha podcast, which is focused on the close reading of Agatha Christie’s puzzle mysteries. They’ve done a couple of episodes where they discuss queer coding in Christie. They recommend a book called Queering Agatha Christie by J C Bernthal. They’ve also done a couple of interview pieces with him.

    I mention this, because he talks about how as a child growing up he was attracted to Christie’s writing partly by those characters who were queer coded - and the subversion of respectability.

    Generally, Christie portrays gay men as effeminate - and often uses them as the ‘obvious’ suspect who then did not actually commit the crime. Whereas, she seems to write more sympathetic portrayals of lesbian couples.

    The writers during the ‘golden age’ were often somewhat of outsiders themselves - and this filters through their writing too. Dorothy Sayers was unusual for her time in being a copywriter. Naigo Marsh was buried alongside her female secretary of 40 years. Gladys Mitchell didn’t try to hide her same sex relationships, and wrote a lot more explicitly about unconventional relationships in her crime novels.

    All of them though, were noticeably racist and colonialist in their attitudes. Christie was particularly anti-Semitic, to an extent that caused complaint from the public after World War II. After the outcry she gave permission to her publishers to alter the text where a problem was perceived.

    Despite this, her books are massively popular internationally - I think this is partly because she is a lot better at character than many give her credit for. Despite the ‘stuck in its time’ detritus you can see aspects of character that have resonance.

    I’m repeating myself, because there is more than one ‘marked category’ to discuss.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I would dearly love to hear what the unblokey bits were. Very curious. Please?
    @Lamb Chopped it's a long time since I read the book. However, it was not so much 'unblokey bits'. It was more that the central character, although he did blokey things, had sword fights, seduced women etc. had what one might call a stereotypical female way of looking at the world, perceiving what was going on. This is difficult to explain but he felt the world around him as containing far more fluid boundaries between one person and another, and particularly between other people and himself than men tend to. So he spent a lot of time wondering how other people felt about him in a way that fits with how women often are in books written by women and not with how men are in books written by men.

    It's safer to write books that describe people from the outside!

    Thank you. Interesting!
  • @Eliab have you read C S Forester’s Hornblower novels ? I wonder how they might compare, as a huge amount is made of his interior life.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    Can we consider, for example, Jacob Rees Mogg and Johnny Vegas as having the same cultural formation?
    Of course they do. Posh and working class are variations on one culture, not different cultures.
    That is not how, for example, many young people experience things when starting at certain UK universities. If by culture we mean the dictionary definition of ideas, customs and social behaviours then these can be different enough to cause confusion, pain and alienation.
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    Language. There are three possible native languages that white british people may speak, in addition to numerous dialects. Following the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the work of Gadamer, this will be an important influence on formation.
    I think SW is incorrect. Culture shapes language. If I learn Mexican Spanish, it doesn't confer Mexican culture onto me.
    Yes, there are variations in culture between Scotland, Wales and England. But they share a great deal as well.
    I was referring to languages in which people have been born and raised, not second languages. There are people whose primary language is Gaelic or Welsh, and those population groups are not coterminous with national boundaries - and so I was not making a comment about those. But if you don’t agree with Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutic insights on language, or the SWH, then I don’t think you are open to debate on this point anyway. <gallic shrug>
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    3. Family and relationships. [...] I speculate that a male person might find it easier to write from the perspective of (someone like) his sister than from the perspective of (someone like) Jacob Rees Mogg, despite sharing a gender.
    Loads of assumption here. Every single man who doesn't understand women has a mother. Many of them have sisters as well.
    Yes, it is possible for a person to write from another perspective and do it well. I am not disputing this, I am saying it is not as easy as many authors think.
    We agree on this point.
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    6. Outsider positions. Differences in income, class, sexuality or disabilities can give an individual an outsider perspective on (at least significant aspects of) their own cultural context, which opens it up to critique.
    A gay male Briton is still British. They are outside the default straight part, yes, but they get the rest of the culture. Being an outsider does give one insights into how their outsiderness works against the default. But that doesn't pull them from the base culture completely. There are still many things that provide commonality.
    A goth teen slouching on the pavement in London watching the norms go by might feel disconnected from the culture, but still shares more culture with them than s/he does a goth teen slouching on the pavement watching the norms go by in Gaborone.

    Outsider is a relative term.
    By implication, so is ‘insider’. However, your relative outsider perspectives and assumptions are not concordant with my relative insider experiences - which, amusingly, validates both of our positions to some extent.

  • Cameron wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    Can we consider, for example, Jacob Rees Mogg and Johnny Vegas as having the same cultural formation?
    Of course they do. Posh and working class are variations on one culture, not different cultures.
    That is not how, for example, many young people experience things when starting at certain UK universities. If by culture we mean the dictionary definition of ideas, customs and social behaviours then these can be different enough to cause confusion, pain and alienation.
    But that does not mean the shared base isn't there. It is a case of focusing on the non-shared bits. The more a group shares in common, the more emphasis will be placed on the smaller things.
    I am not saying there are no differences within cultures, because of course there are.
    Cameron wrote: »
    I was referring to languages in which people have been born and raised, not second languages. There are people whose primary language is Gaelic or Welsh, and those population groups are not coterminous with national boundaries - and so I was not making a comment about those. But if you don’t agree with Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutic insights on language, or the SWH, then I don’t think you are open to debate on this point anyway. <gallic shrug>
    I don't agree does not mean an unwillingness to discuss. But, for the moment, whatever. There are three-ish² languages in Scotland. English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots. So are there three separate cultures in Scotland?¹ Or are they intertwined cultural variations?
    Culture in the UK is variable, that is not a question. The question is what is varying. Is it a split in the trunk or branches from the trunk?

    ¹For the moment, I am setting aside immigrant cultures.
    ²Scottish English is more a dialect than separate from English and there is debate on whether Scots is an actual language.
    Cameron wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    6. Outsider positions. Differences in income, class, sexuality or disabilities can give an individual an outsider perspective on (at least significant aspects of) their own cultural context, which opens it up to critique.
    A gay male Briton is still British. They are outside the default straight part, yes, but they get the rest of the culture. Being an outsider does give one insights into how their outsiderness works against the default. But that doesn't pull them from the base culture completely. There are still many things that provide commonality.
    A goth teen slouching on the pavement in London watching the norms go by might feel disconnected from the culture, but still shares more culture with them than s/he does a goth teen slouching on the pavement watching the norms go by in Gaborone.

    Outsider is a relative term.
    By implication, so is ‘insider’. However, your relative outsider perspectives and assumptions are not concordant with my relative insider experiences - which, amusingly, validates both of our positions to some extent.
    I think it madness to ignore the commonality in a given culture. This is exactly one of the drivers behind white privilege.
    But yes, insider and outsider are variable. But one doesn't recognise the commonality, one has little hope to understand any other cultural interface.

    But then I can walk the streets of the place where I was born, speaking exactly like everyone else with all the same cultural references and be challenged as foreign because of the way I look. And I fly to where my mum came from and, despite looking the part, be challenged as foreign for those same cultural references that were ignored at home. So my reference is likely a bit different to yours.

    When the differences one sees are small, they appear inordinately large. When the differences one sees are large, the small differences disappear.
  • Firenze wrote: »
    But imagination works with what it can get, and finds correspondences and inspirations in unlikely sources. It's good to have a mirror, but as your man Herbert says:

    A man that looks on glass,
    On it may stay his eye;
    Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
    And then the heaven espy.

    My man? In what way is he my man?
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    I find the idea that “being a white british male comes with the bulk of the culture” is open to some critique. My reasons are fourfold:

    1. A lack of homogenous culture. Can we consider, for example, Jacob Rees Mogg and Johnny Vegas as having the same cultural formation?
    Of course they do. Posh and working class are variations on one culture, not different cultures. Walk into a pub and you might have a number of choices, but they are all British beer. Quite different from Bolivian Pisco sour
    You might taste a bitter and say that it is a different thing to a stout. But a person who doesn't drink beer will see the similarities and call them the same.
    Cameron wrote: »
    2. Language. There are three possible native languages that white british people may speak, in addition to numerous dialects. Following the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the work of Gadamer, this will be an important influence on formation.
    I think SW is incorrect. Culture shapes language. If I learn Mexican Spanish, it doesn't confer Mexican culture onto me.
    Yes, there are variations in culture between Scotland, Wales and England. But they share a great deal as well. A Scot and Welshman and an Englishman are sitting in a pub and in walks an American. The barman tells a joke and all three Brits laugh whilst the American stares blankly.
    Cameron wrote: »
    3. Family and relationships. Many of us could point to a sister(s) that we have been close to our whole life, and the majority of us had a mother during our formative years. Added to which, for the majority of men their most intimate relationships are with women and have day-to-day lives (e.g. work) that are populated with both women and men. Whether men reflect on this or not, the idea that we are not in relationships of mutual influence and completely lack understanding of other gender positions would make it impossible for most of these relationships to ‘go on’ successfully. As a result, I speculate that a male person might find it easier to write from the perspective of (someone like) his sister than from the perspective of (someone like) Jacob Rees Mogg, despite sharing a gender.
    Loads of assumption here. Every single man who doesn't understand women has a mother. Many of them have sisters as well.
    Yes, it is possible for a person to write from another perspective and do it well. I am not disputing this, I am saying it is not as easy as many authors think.
    Cameron wrote: »
    4. Outsider positions. Differences in income, class, sexuality or disabilities can give an individual an outsider perspective on (at least significant aspects of) their own cultural context, which opens it up to critique.
    A gay male Briton is still British. They are outside the default straight part, yes, but they get the rest of the culture. Being an outsider does give one insights into how their outsiderness works against the default. But that doesn't pull them from the base culture completely. There are still many things that provide commonality.
    A goth teen slouching on the pavement in London watching the norms go by might feel disconnected from the culture, but still shares more culture with them than s/he does a goth teen slouching on the pavement watching the norms go by in Gaborone.

    Outsider is a relative term.

    I think what you're describing is intersectionality.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Firenze wrote: »
    But imagination works with what it can get, and finds correspondences and inspirations in unlikely sources. It's good to have a mirror, but as your man Herbert says:

    A man that looks on glass,
    On it may stay his eye;
    Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
    And then the heaven espy.

    My man? In what way is he my man?

    (If I may - 'yer man' is a feature of English as used by the Irish and just implies that 'yer man' is probably someone you'll have heard of. It's a friendly thing to say to someone, implying some level of shared understanding about something).
  • I'd be happy to take him off your hands...
  • I'd be happy to take him off your hands...

    He isn't even on them yet.
  • Dude, he's an English classic poet. Grab him and run. (You can't imagine what those are going for nowadays.)
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I think what you're describing is intersectionality.
    Not my intention. What I am trying to illustrate is that one's culture is a greater part of one's perceptions and that people do not completely see its effect on who they are. British and American culture¹ are default in (order of dominance) white, male and straight.² The more of these boxes people tick, the less likely to see the commonalities because they are background. If one lives on a street of grey Georgian houses, one would see the one with the white paint or the red door as different. However, if this house is in one's neighbourhood, the Georgians look completely identical. Oversimplification, of course.


    ¹variations notwithstanding
    ²There are other factors, but these are the main ones
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    edited February 2020
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    However, if this house is in one's neighbourhood, the Georgians look completely identical.

    This link gives me this error:
    Your client does not have permission to get URL /proxy/vL9Z62in3UKHWPyfEeU_ECrqpGfSb7trRvQeNbPn8gglei5vpYMdZeQvF058yM8zzdeT7Qg0gMRoLaB2vlKt5i7J9fQvTPa_tF_xiO6ooLqT5VMxc8QNf5FSoyxcLn0YurqACNM-WXQVuGMZKFQdW9gdApon80MWlc1k from this server.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    All writers have to write about people who are Not Them, unless every single character is identical which would be either boring or weird.

    They observe other people. Good writers are those who are better at observing so that the characters are more convincingly Not Them.

    The end.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    All writers have to write about people who are Not Them, unless every single character is identical which would be either boring or weird.

    They observe other people. Good writers are those who are better at observing so that the characters are more convincingly Not Them.

    The end.

    No. Not the end. They not only observe, they talk to people. They ask "did I get this right?"
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