Michael's Going to China
I love my children. I really do. It's just...if I didn't have any (Chas ve Challilah, poo poo poo) I would be able to go to China with Michael. I am so jealous. I can safely say I've never been envious of him before. But I want to go to China. I don't necessarily want to write a Hong Kong action movie with Master Yuen Wu Ping, although his movies are fabulous, especially Iron Monkey. Have you ever seen more remarkable use made of pork bau? But I just don't think I have the chops to write that kind of movie. And I know Michael does. But, I want to go to China, damn it!
No one who interviews me can believe I'm not consumed with envy of my husband. They just don't accept that a writer of my total lack of fame is not eating her green kishkes out when forced to confront her husband's literary success. I really am not, however. It would be like being jealous of Nabokov. You may not agree with me (although why would you be reading this if you didn't?) but I think Michael is one of the best writers in the English language. He's brilliant -- creepily brilliant. His genius is some peculiar gift that is unparalleled. I spend a lot of my free time reading, as you know if you've ever checked out my booklog. I enjoy and wax rhapsodic over all sorts of different contemporary novelists -- Ann Patchett, Philip Roth, Lorrie Moore (mostly a short story writer) -- but none of them, not even Roth, can hold a candle to my husband. He's like Charles Dickens; he'll be part of the cannon, read in five hundred years, when the rest of us are dusty and warped volumes moldering in the back of used bookstores.
So why would I make myself crazy being envious?
Okay, I was jealous once.
The only time I was envious of Michael's success was when we both did booktours around the same time. He stayed at a Four Seasons in every city he traveled to. I stayed at a Marriott. And I'm a bit of a JAP about bed linen. It was pretty irritating, to say the least, to know he was tucking himself between two Frette sheets, nestling his head against a pile of down pillows, ordering shrimp cocktails and lemon meringue pie, while I was trying not to let any part of my skin touch the bedspread. (Because do you have any idea what's been going on on those things? Gross.)
I recently read a fabulous essay called “Envy” by Kathy Chetkovich. It was in Granta, reprinted in Best American Essays. She writes about her unnamed boyfriend and her trouble dealing with both his brilliance and his success. (Anyone who couldn't figure out that she was writing about J. Franzen is either a total dingbat or just not particularly interested in contemporary fiction.) Her essay was gorgeous: funny and dark, painful in that way the best personal essay should be. I probably should have found it cutting too close to the bone. But I didn't. Perhaps it's because my literary pretensions came late to me. I was a public defender; I prided myself on my work in the courtroom. When I think about it, I realize that I probably would have had a hard time marrying a more successful and adept trial lawyer. Even when I started writing, I started with mysteries -- and not literary ones. Light reading. Something you could read while, say, breastfeeding. It was only with Daughter's Keeper that I began to think of myself as a writer, and it was only with this latest novel, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, that I began thinking of myself as ... well ... as a decent writer. Or someone who has decent in her, when she's not being lazy.
No, no envy. But goddamn it, I want to go to China.