Novelist Ayelet Waldman - Daughter's Keeper, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

* Do you ever struggle with the constraints of monogamy? Do your happily married friends? Is monogamy a precondition for a happy marriage? Can one or both parties screw around and the marriage still be good? Even if one is honest, can one, married or single, screw around without wreaking damage? Is there a cosmic significance to intercourse?

No, I don't. I'm in love with my husband, he's in love with me, and neither of us has any interest in a relationship with anyone else. That's what works for us, I imagine any number of different rules might apply to other people's marriages.

* What were your keenest dreams for your life when you were a kid? How many of them have you fulfilled?

I wanted to be an actress. A Broadway star. I would say that that has not worked out at all.

* What crowd did you hang out with in highschool?

Mostly, I had no crowd. I was one of those girls huddled alone in the lunchroom picking spinach out of their braces. Then, once I reached a certain age, I got involved with the theater company, and found a home in that particular group of delightful misfits.

* Do you find your work therapeutic? If so, which part of your work?

When work is going well, it is the most exciting, fun thing in my life. It makes me happy. When it's not going well, but I still manage to get 1000 or 1500 words in a day, I feel a sense of accomplishment that eases my day. When I don't work, I'm a nightmare to be around.

* Do you ever feel keen jealousy of other writers, including your husband? If so, who? Why?

Of other writers, sure. Writers are a squirrely lot who generally endorse the Oscar Wilde prescription for happiness. It is not enough that I succeed, my friends must also fail. So sure, I get jealous when some hot new writer sells a million copies of a book or debuts on the front cover of the book review. I feel absolutely no jealousy toward my husband. It would be ludicrious to. He is one of the finest writers in the English language of the last hundred years. People will be reading Michael long after the rest of his contemporaries have moldered into dust on the shelves of the library of Congress. If I'm jealous of anything, it's only of his genious.

* What's the story of you and God? What role does Judaism play in your life? Do you believe yourself chosen by God for something? If so, what? What do you find inspiring/depressing about Jewish life?

I don't spend much time thinking about God.Judaism permeates my life, but not necessarily religiously, more because of family, tradition, etc. What depresses me? Opening the newspaper. Israel depresses me.

* Which is more important to you? Writing a great novel or having a great marriage? (Many of the single female writers I interviewed got angry at that question.)


* 'Literary' often seems to be a code word for the genre of despair. Are there forces that push our best writers to despair as their theme? Is it cool (among literary writers) to be alienated and despairing? If a despairing book contributes to somebody's suicide, is the author partially on the hook? Do you ever view books as moral or immoral (DeSade or Nabokov's Lolita)?

Sure a book can be immoral -- certainly not Lolita, and probably not DeSade ( haven't read him) -- but if a book, say, contains specific instructions on how to lure small children to their death, then it would be immoral. Despair is just another aspect of the human condition, and more importantly for writers, it's a hell of a lot more interesting than happiness. A book in which someone is perfectly content, there's no conflict, is a dull book indead. The story is always about conflict. Otherwise, what's there to write about?

* How have your social/political views changed since becoming a wife and mother?

Very little. I've always been a liberal with a strong libertarian bent. I feel the same way. I still, despite having children, believe, for example, that the use, possession and sale of drugs -- all drugs from marijuana to methamphetamine -- should be decriminalized.

* Have your boundaries changed about what you will reveal in an interview or a non-fiction piece since you gave up blogging?

I'm more circumspect since my piece in the New York Times. I'll always be candid about most things -- my bipolar disorder, my maternal ambivalence -- but there are intimate things I'm not interested in talking about.

Fascinated By Novelist Ayelet Waldman

I just finished her book Daughter's Keeper. It was the most fun I've had reading a novel in two months -- since Robert Siegal's All the Money in the World.

I Googled Ayelet and found on Wikipedia:

Waldman's essay "Motherlove" was published in Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race and Themselves (ISBN 0-06-059879-4, edited by Kate Moses and Camille Peri), and reprinted in the New York Times under the headline "Truly, Madly, Guiltily."

The essay explores her conviction that a woman should consider her spousal relationship more important than her relationships with her children. She writes that a clear hierarchy of love is essential to a stable and healthy marriage. Waldman summarizes her ideal family dynamic: "[W]e, [husband Michael Chabon] and I, are the core of what he cherishes... the children are satellites, beloved but tangential."

Waldman posits that children who are made aware of their secondary rank in their parents' affections "are more successful, happier, live longer and have healthier lives" than those who grow up with different expectations.

After Because I Said So was published, The Oprah Winfrey Show invited Waldman to discuss her views on love, marriage, and motherhood.

As a kid, I was taken aback when my mother said she loved my dad more than me. Then she explained that was the nature of the universe. I accepted it.

Then, over the past few weeks, I spoke to novelists who freely admitted that they loved their kids more than their spouse. I found that disconcerting. I want my wife to love me more than she loves the kids.

Jim Jones emails:

As you're discovering in your talks with others, your mother's behavior is not the nature of the universe...

The likely explanation for dear mater's feelings is that she recognized early what a wretched excuse for a human being she had spawned and decided to cut her losses. Who wouldn't? What's hilarious is that her obvious dislike for you compelled her to actually tell you how she felt.