This brilliant interview with Rebecca Stolnit has been on my mind for an entire week. The way she breaks down genres, defies labels placed on writers, challenges new writers to be engaged in the interesting and urgent issues of our time, and places importance on the pleasure and elegance of writing, even when discussing gender roles, the environment, culture, and politics, is powerful and encouraging.
I've always wanted to identify myself as a writer, but often struggle with where exactly my words and interests would best fit. Essayist? Novelist? Short story writer? And as much as I enjoy writing about nature, women, and the human experience, I feel an equal pull to address the social and political challenges that surround us today. Can I really be a young mother who enjoys the quiet pleasures of a domestic life, and also a voice for feminism, sustainable agriculture, and immigration? Can my words be both beautiful and powerful? Humane and engaging? Tender and persuasive?
Stolnit gives this example of Henry David Thoreau:
"I think he’s a great example of someone refusing the categories: he thinks about leaves changing color and he also thinks about, and talks about, and cares about, slavery and John Brown and the war on Mexico. In the introductory essay to Storming the Gates I write about the way he’s so insistent that when he got out of jail the morning after that founding act of civil disobedience, he went huckleberrying. It’s an insistence that pleasure and commitment, landscape and politics, the big and the small can and do coexist."
It is possible to do both. The big and the small can and do coexist.
The entire interview is fascinating and full of great insights. I found her thoughts on activism to be particularly moving. If you do read the interview, let me know what you think; I would love to hear your thoughts.