Sport 28: Autumn 2002
Jeannette says that she's striving to express power, competence etc … in her women characters and that she is convinced of the weakness of her male characters. This is all very well and good, but she's made it a matter of conscience. I don't want to write with my conscience. If I find myself thinking of what I should do I remember things I've admired—but then the things I admire, I can't see the ‘should’ in them. I can't see Blake at the service of his ideas, only weathering them—wind, invisible presences.
But this isn't quite true. Jeannette is inventing characters, but not making a book of them. I want to be a good, or even a great writer. I have to hide my ambition—it's too much for me—for me—admiring greatness in other writers, dead and living, to want to be great myself. I've had to try to hide what I want, what sometimes I think I can get, even from Mary and Sara, who've known me all my life, and have watched me steadily moving towards what I wanted, getting gradually fitter all the time.
Jeannette says she doesn't believe in talent. And she doesn't like my talented characters. Like Kelfie in Novel #3, who imposes himself, denounces things, tries to influence people, and who is punished for being wilful and self-insistent (even though he's male and should get away with it!). I feel obliged to punish him—not because he's male, but because that's my experience. I should ask Jeannette what the difference is between talent and competence—the competence she's endowed her women with. Does competence have utility, and talent none? page 130 Does not believing in talent make Jeannette more useful to people wanting to do things than I am? She says, since I'm writing, and I'm ambitious about it, I should try to describe society. I tell her that I don't want to paint a picture of the prison—or, the only detail I want in my picture is the gap in the bars I'd like to go through.