Hermits Rock

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Many thanks to L for pointing to Kathryn Chetkovich’s essay “Envy” in Granta. Reading it was for me an experience: I began reading sordidly, for gossip, but then, in a moment, I was reading thoughtfully, for appreciation. Chetkovich describes unapologetically the consequences of her envy of J. Franz, who in this instance comes across as not an ass (but also not as not an ass). Her participation in one of the Seven Deadlies she connects—a little shallowly, sure, but enough to make the point—to a tradition of writers who are also women:

I was startled to realize that I didn’t wish I’d written his book, any more than I would have wished to wake up tomorrow looking like the beauty from a magazine cover. What I envied were what his talent and success had bestowed on him, a sense of the rightness of what he was doing. I wanted what women always want: permission. But he’d had that before this book was even written; it was, after all, the first thing I’d envied about him. It was arguably what enabled him to write the book in the first place.

Chetkovich doesn’t let herself off the hook, but I am intrigued by her evocation of privilege, in this case of gender, which everyone knows exists, and all those who have it take advantage of, and all those who don’t chafe against, and few who have it wish to abandon it since it’s done them so well in the past. Tia at Unfogged made the similar point a couple of days ago. Both women are invoking privilege in the same way. They argue that gender is so fundamental to life that even to attempt to transcend it is a bitter, bitter struggle. Surely that struggle is worthwhile, because gender becomes something that oppresses. Yet I wonder if Chetkovich’s essay shouldn’t have a counterpart, somewhere, that invokes the same writers she does as evidence that power (language) in spite of (gendered) privilege is available to all?