For Author Anne Enright Lots of Bad Things Happen to Women in Books

Ever since her 2007 Booker-winning novel The Gathering, author Anne Enright has always been intrigued by the dark side and writing about whatever is scandalous and taboo, touching on sexual abuse in Ireland. Similarly, when her most recent book Actress, made its debut in 2016, little did she know that her book would be quite prophetic; the Harvey Weinstein scandal would only break the news across the world after the release of this novel. Writing about the dark side of show business coupled with sexual predators and the dreaded casting couch, it’s interesting that back then, no one wanted to talk about these issues in the entertainment industry, “It is really interesting how the tide rises. I was one of the many boats on this rising tide,” she says.

While men are called modernists, women are being branded as quirky

Today, what is happening in Hollywood is finally being talked about and Enright’s protagonist Katherine O’Dell is the typical fallen star complete with “mad green eyes”, cigarettes and secret shame. The story which is narrated by the daughter is something that captures readers since the very beginning of the book and today Enright is quite the phenomenon in the literary world, not to mention her home country, but according to her, there has always been an astounding gender imbalance in the Irish literary world because “There was always some horrible little misogynist that they could roll out to take you down. It took me a while to figure out what was going on in a couple of cases.” The truth is that while men are called modernists, women are being branded as quirky, however, she has had her fill with being angry about the gender issue. “I’m on the other side of it now. I think something happens in middle age when you’re not that interested in impressing guys anymore. I have actually been interested in ‘competing’.” Now the Irish literary scene is less lonely for women than it used to be what with writers like Eimear McBride, Sally Rooney, and Anna Burns so many more.

She wants to change the narrative of bad things happening to women in books

Authors like Enright also want to reclaim the female agency in desire, “To push back against the idea that sex is a terrible thing, horrible and rapine and always somehow disappointing and wrong. It’s an idea from the misogynistic patriarchy that returns and returns in more modern iterations. A lot of bad things happen to women in books. Really a lot.” She wants to change this and rewrite the themes of love, sex, and relationships, to make them more complete. According to her, a novel is like “your own personal swimming pool, you can go there any time” and her novel Actress was something that was always in her possession, all she had to was just write it. Enright is the youngest of five; all of them were brainy as children and she read the entire children’s section at her local library by the time she was seven years old. She started off her career working as a television producer and director for RTÉ in Dublin for six years after winning a Chevening Scholarship to the University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Course. She also completed an M.A. and later left her network to pursue writing full-time; her first novel The Wig My Father Wore was published in 1995 and since then she has released four more. 

Image credit: The Straits Times

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