New Narrative and its daughters refuse the old dictate that women be demure and follow the rules, especially the constraints of “good taste” that can act as an obstacle to the kinds of stories women have to tell. In elevating a kind of “bad” writing, these artists shrug off an (implicitly masculine) standard or grammar of narration. And yet when our main mode of communication today is the bad writing of the dashed-off email, and when sex and gossip have become as quick a route to fame as any, how avant-garde is it to incorporate an email into a novel? The idea that certain subjects or styles are forbidden is mostly, these days, a useful pretence, affording the messy narrative the appearance but not often the reality of brave honesty, and obviating the costlier truths got by synthesis, interpretation, reflection, revision.
- “The Semiautobiographers” by Emily Cooke