How does that saying go? Well-behaved women seldom make history? Fay Weldon has long been hovering on the periphery of my mind as someone I want to read, and from what I've read about her, she isn't exactly a 'well-behaved' woman. Back when it was just released I had to have Kehua!, which I believe must have been published in the UK several years ago and has only recently (last fall) been published by Europa Editions here in the US. In the most recent issue of The New York Review of Books there is a most interesting article by Alison Lurie about Weldon and some of her more recent books, including Kehua!. Needless to say I have pulled my own copy off the shelf for closer inspection.
Fay Weldon has had an interesting life, and she seems both unapologetic and irreverent about things. I like her. She was born in Britain but spent the first fourteen or so years of her life in New Zealand. Kehua! by the way is "a warmly exuberant story of Maori spirits". It seems as though her work has come into and gone out of vogue more than once and her range of writing seems to vary widely--from literary fiction to potboilers--at least that is what her trilogy of works, The Habit of the House, is referred to as. I'm sort of curious about them all.
I get the feeling that Weldon has not only had her cake but eaten it, too, which is apparently a no-no in the world if literature. "In a patriarchal world, she has managed to share power with men and make them and herself happy." She's been married multiple times, sometimes happily and sometimes not. In one case her husband was getting ready to divorce her having had an affair with another woman, but before doing so he dropped dead and made her a rich woman. Why do I feel a little like there is some divine justice in that?
She seems to have committed the crime of writing for money not just for the sake of art. And seems fairly defiant about this (and I don't blame her).
"I have always had . . . what others see as low tastes. I like blockbusters out of Hollywood, thrillers, gold taps, country music . . . and Coca-Cola."
Interestingly Weldon often writes metafiction. Lurie quotes Finuala Dowling:
"Weldon herself conflates autobiography, biography, and literary criticism."
In her novels she will address the reader directly, which is what happens in Kehua!. I think I chose wisely when I bought my copy. Lurie certainly makes the book sound quite promising.
"Kehua! is not only a good story and lot of fun to read, it is a remarkable account of what it's like to write a novel by someone who's been doing this for over fifty years. Of course, Your Writer is not really Fay Weldon, but another metafictional invention, whose house and husband have different names from those of the author."
The article on Fay Weldon is well worth reading if you can get your hands on a copy of the NYRB--there is so much more that is fascinating to read about Weldon in it. As for what Kehua! is about?
"The chief delight of this generous and wonderfully humorous book is the running commentary of 'your writer,' working on her computer downstairs and chatting with us about the strange and beguiling goings-on upstairs. And here the author invites the reader into the life of a writer: the romantic allusions, the sobering truths and the spirited triumph, both inside the novel and out."
So, all of this is really a shameful excuse for me to start reading a new book! I've been reading about her and she has been on my mind so I had to share a little here. I shouldn't start anymore books but I think I am going to. It's time to give Fay Weldon's work a try. A tale of murder, adultery, incest, ghosts, redemption and remorse and all set in a comfortable house in Highgate? I'm there!
Have you read her? Have a favorite book?