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It wanted to be written; it was restless for the racetrack; it galloped along once I sat down at the computer; and since Marina slept in later than me in those days, I served it for breakfast and sent it to Tom later that day. It still seems to get reposted more than just about anything I’ve written at Tom Dispatch.com, and prompted some very funny letters to this site.None was more astonishing than the one from the Indianapolis man who wrote in to tell me that he had “never personally or professionally shortchanged a woman” and went on to berate me for not hanging out with “more regular guys or at least do a little homework first,” gave me some advice about how to run my life, and then commented on my “feelings of inferiority.” He thought that being patronized was an experience a woman chooses to, or could choose not to have–and so the fault was all mine. Young women subsequently added the word “mansplaining” to the lexicon.He was already telling me about the very important book–with that smug look I know so well in a man holding forth, eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.Here, let me just say that my life is well-sprinkled with lovely men, with a long succession of editors who have, since I was young, listened and encouraged and published me, with my infinitely generous younger brother, with splendid friends of whom it could be said–like the Clerk in I still remember from Mr.Pelen’s class on Chaucer–“gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Still, there are these other men, too. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, “That’s her book.” Or tried to interrupt him anyway. She had to say, “That’s her book” three or four times before he finally took it in.And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen.When I wrote the essay below, I surprised myself in seeing that what starts out as minor social misery can expand into violent silencing and even violent death.Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to women, two Liberians and a Yemeni, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Which is to say, that safety and full participation is only a goal.
So lovely, immeasurably valuable Sam, this one always was for you in particular.
He kept us waiting while the other guests drifted out into the summer night, and then sat us down at his authentically grainy wood table and said to me, “So?
I hear you’ve written a couple of books.” I replied, “Several, actually.” He said, in the way you encourage your friend’s seven-year-old to describe flute practice, “And what are they about?
A British academic wrote in to the with all kinds of nitpicking corrections and complaints, all of them from outer space.
He carped, for example, that to aggrandize Muybridge’s standing I left out technological predecessors like Henry R. He’d apparently not read the book all the way to page 202 or checked the index, since Heyl was there (though his contribution was just not very significant).
The house was great–if you like Ralph Lauren-style chalets–a rugged luxury cabin at 9,000 feet complete with elk antlers, lots of kilims, and a wood-burning stove.