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Old White Women
On The Rise of The Housewife Authoress.
BROWSING the titles at the local bookshop this weekend, I am struck by the horrific realisation that this, one of my few remaining pleasures, has become almost indistinguishable from my greatest displeasure, attending one of Mother’s garden parties, given that in both cases I find myself surrounded by old white women with too much time on their hands.
These are not the bookshop patrons, but the authoresses lining almost every shelf. It should escape the notice of no one who enters a bookshop that close to 80% of works published nowadays are penned by the bored wives of successful businessmen. Naturally, these cloistered wives, who have little life experience, write books of middling quality. But what really characterises their work is a febrility of pornographic imagination, producing as it does only the following five genres: Travel pornography, domestic abuse pornography, historical pornography, grief pornography, and fictional memoirs of child abuse, with such titles as “The Boy That Was Used As a Nightstand,” and “Daddy, No!”.
These authoresses are the only people who are published nowadays, being as they are the only people with the requisite free time to write. And since they are the only people writing, they are the only people being read, with every book by a middle class housewife being a pastiche of a previous one, and every publishing house an ouroboran monstrosity which pumps out one novel about wartime abortion after another.
Much has been said about the homogeneity of the dead white author, but it is the material conditions under which they flourished, and not their race or sex (which are immaterial) that should interest us. What made them great authors was their position as members of the lower middle class. Look down the cannon and you will be greeted by a host of failed schoolteachers, lazy clerics, civil servants, tax collectors, and failed politicians.
These were men with a healthy but not excessive income, active in society, and with the liberty to neglect their duties to the sufficient degree that they could dedicate themselves to writing. The rise of the middle class housewife as authoress is a damning indictment of modern work conditions, in which only unemployed women are the only people given the leisure to scratch their creative itch.
The recent surge in remote work does give us some hope. Though they are yet to bear any literary fruit, there exists a burgeoning generation of civil servants, logistic coordinators and data entry clerks who, for the first time in over a decade, have the liberty to neglect their professional duties in order to write poetry. If you are one of them, the time to act is now.
See: Miguel de Cervantes (Tax collector), Samuel Johnson (Failed Schoolmaster), Lawrence Sterne (Lazy Cleric who abandoned his duties as soon as he got a whiff of fame), Jonathan Swift (Failed Politician), A.E. Houseman (Clerk), W. H. Auden (Tutor), Dickens (Failed Law Clerk). This list is not exhaustive.