An aptly titled novel – writers and lovers is definitely what you’ll find inside this newest from Lily King.
I enjoyed this one completely.
It shouldn’t have worked as well for me as it did, because inside are clipped, and short sentences and there is also a fair amount of dialogue. But it did work for me and very well – I always wanted to be reading it. I was completely connected to Casey and interested in reading of her struggles with crushing, crushing debt, living in a potting shed and working in a dead end restaurant job all so she could continue working on her novel and never giving up on that goal. I enjoyed reading her stories about her writing friends that left this dream behind for medical insurance and a steady pay-cheque. Casey’s crippling grief at the loss of her mother was also well spread out within and it bound me to her in such a good way. But most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading her quips and barbs about the male writer and ego and her constant navigation around these men and their self-pride.
Nearly every guy I’ve dated believed they should already be famous, believed that greatness was their destiny and they were already behind schedule. An early moment of intimacy often involved a confession of this sort: a childhood vision, teacher’s prophecy, a genius IQ. At first, with my boyfriend in college, I believed it, too. Now I understand it’s how boys are raised to think, how they are lured into adulthood. I’ve met ambitious women, driven women, but no woman has ever told me that greatness was her destiny.
So, so many wonderful observations about men like this throughout the whole novel. She so accurately described this brand of male ego – you know, the ones with the need to fill the room with themselves, their voices, to be heard and what they had to say is so important, you absolutely had to be impressed by them. I laughed right out loud many times – because it was so accurately described! Also the dismissive nature of men about women and their work – in this particular instance that Casey was a writer. So boldly stated by one man in her life, “I just find it extraordinary that you think you have something to say.”
Lily King wrote a piece for Literary Hub about this book she needed to write 30 years ago, and talks about only seeing the struggle of men and their writing. “I read these books over and over, these stories of men in their youth struggling to write. But where were the books about women writers? Where were the books about their struggles?”
This seems like it was a cathartic experience for Lily King as Writers & Lovers resembles so closely her own experiences. “There was only one thing I wanted to write: the novel I needed to read in my twenties and thirties, a story of a young woman struggling to become a writer.”
And I’m glad she wrote this novel. It’s one I continue to think about well after finishing. I still have King’s Euphoria on my shelf. It’s one that has a completely different premise, but gives me the Ann Patchett vibes of State of Wonder and Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, so I’m eager to read it soon.