JSF That brings me back to your daughter. Is it important to you to write something that your wife and daughter like? Would you be disappointed if they didn’t like it? And if so, whom would you be disappointed in, them or you?
JE As far as my daughter goes, I hoped Middlesex would appeal to all sorts of readers, but three-year-olds weren’t on the list. I tend to be obsessively secretive about my work. A few of the early chapters of Middlesex appeared in magazines, but for the last four years or so no one saw it. If I can still make the book better on my own, I’m not eager to show it to anyone.
I don’t think about my family while I’m writing. Or, I think about them constantly, but not as potential readers. I keep filial respect out of my mind until I’m done. And then compunction rushes in. During the editing of Middlesex, I took a few things out that might have stung my relatives. There may still be things in there that will sting. But to me, now, it’s all made up. I blend fact and fiction until everything seems completely true and yet also impersonal.
JSF Speaking of family, have you ever been ashamed of your writing? If yes, when and why?
JE You mean ashamed as in embarrassed? Well, as you might expect, that was one of the hardest things about writing my hermaphrodite’s tale. I have something of my mother’s prudishness in me. It was hard for me to plunge straight into the anatomical features of my hero. It was hard for me to write about a life experience so different from my own. That’s why it’s a family novel, too. I couldn’t inhabit Cal’s consciousness without knowing his entire clan, without putting him into perspective as a child like any other, with parents and grandparents. There is full disclosure, eventually, but it’s handled, as my mother would like, tactfully.