As I’ve noted previously, Robert Stacy McCain* brilliantly describes what he calls “The Writer” in ‘Broken People,’ Cats and Prozac. There are several very common characteristics of “The Writer” which McCain has noted. One of them is their education:
See, this is the thing with young feminist writer types nowadays. They can’t go to Podunk State University. No, they must attend one of those private schools where annual tuition is at or near the median U.S. household income. This is the only way to become that glorious being, The Writer.
Another, even more central characteristic is what The Writer writes about:
Well, you may ask, what does The Writer write about?
Herself, of course! Do these elite colleges offer a major in Solipsism Studies nowadays?
To say the very least. Where do they come from, these painfully sensitive writer girls with interior dialogues full of shame and fear?
“Feminine instinct without its proper object or purpose,” my gut tells me, speaking like an old-fashioned psychologist, or perhaps an anthropologist of the evolutionary “brain science” type.
With this in mind, I offer you some excerpts from Laura Lifshitz’s comment in reply to my recent post about her so that we might further test The Other McCain’s prescience:
#3- I went to college for writing. An established institution– Columbia University. I am not be Shakespeare or the other author you mentioned, but I love writing, I write constantly, and try to the best of my ability.
Went to an expensive private university to study writing? Check. The Other McCain has this part dialed in. But did he guess the subject material correctly?
#6 Yup. I make money off writing about divorce, parenthood, sex, marriage, and more.
If that makes me a jerk, well please, I’m waiting for my capital J.
This is a tougher call. The post I linked to and the others of hers I read were very much about her own divorce, her own parenthood, etc. But Lifshitz frames this as writing about the topics in the abstract, not using these topics as an excuse to endlessly write about herself, baring her own pain, etc. However, I am perhaps not the most unbiased observer here, so I suggest instead we take this question to someone who is sympathetic to Lifshitz. William Benton was one of several commenters who came to this blog to defend Lifshitz:
2) Laura is not profiting from her divorce. She supports herself. She is a hard working, creative, witty soul who wishes nothing more than to find the light at the far end of this dark tunnel she has found herself in. She has no delusions that somehow divorce is an inconvenient event that will ultimately be inconsequential, and her daughter will simply get past it. No, she is looking for hope in the future as she deals with the pains she fought to prevent from slamming down on herself and her daughter.
3) Laura writes from her heart. She bares her soul so graphically that I cannot bring myself to read everything that she writes. She reflects upon pain and anguish to control the demons of her past. That is how she copes and how she survives. And it opens her up to critical judgement from those who don’t know or understand the rest of the story.
So far McCain is two for two. This brings up his third prediction, regarding where “The Writer” lives while practicing her trade of writing about herself:
And, probably because as girls dreaming of becoming The Writer, they watched a sitcom or movie about the lives of quirky bachelorettes in Brooklyn, they simply must live there after graduation.
From just a bit of searching it appears that this particular “The Writer” doesn’t actually live in Brooklyn, but does trace her roots to Brooklyn. For this I think it is ony gracious to give McCain partial credit.
But as I mentioned in my previous post, Lifshitz isn’t just another The Writer, she is part of a subset of The Writers who realized that in order to properly navel gaze, they needed to bring more to the table than just ordinary feminist dysfunction. Lifshitz is a cut above ordinary The Writers; she has gone that essential extra mile to become not just any The Writer, but a Professional Divorcée. Divorce papers and devastated young child in hand, she finally has the kind of painful inner dialog her readers crave. As commenter Alexandra Segal explains:
You’re just jealous that she got published in the New York Times and you didn’t. And by the way, how dare you criticize a mother who worries about her child? Don’t even pretend to think that you know what that kind of bond is like.
Let this be a lesson to all would be The Writers. If you want to make it big and put your expensive private school education to use, be sure to leave a trail of wreckage in your wake.
*I understand from Instapundit that The Other McCain has a new book out: Sex Trouble: Essays on Radical Feminism and the War Against Human Nature.