From Publishers Weekly
Freed, author of five novels and, most recently, the story collection The Curse of the Appropriate Man
, offers insights into her writing and her life in 11 clean, incisive essays that mix the personal with the instructional without going too deeply into either. How autobiography shapes fiction particularly interests her: in "Sex with the Servants," Freed describes how her novel Home Ground
caused a scandal in her native South Africa (at the few book-related events that weren't cancelled, all anyone wanted to know was if she'd really touched her garden boy's penis). Her family, who also appeared in print, were not nearly as outraged, and for would-be writers, Freed offers several firm pronouncements ("Writers themselves are natural murderers"; "The real writer... is a moral reprobate"), which suggest that to worry about others' feelings cheapens one's art. This apologia for the way writers skewer those around them shares space with a careful consideration of her own work's themes—alienation, family, home, travel, performance—episodic but interesting glimpses into Freed's life (a larger-than-life mother, a wild family, a troubled marriage, a difficult gig teaching writing). Freed's honesty is always tempered by what feels like cool reserve, but this nevertheless is an instructive, enlightening book. 10 b&w photos. (Sept.)
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In the risky genre of writing about writing, Freed has emerged with a finely crafted and revelatory workand with an honesty that bludgeons. In her essays (first published in various magazines and newspapers), she bemoans that writing cannot be taught and that in her role as a teacher, "the job is turning me into a dancing ape." Whatever goes on in her classroom doesnt matter: she teaches us now with her essays. And what she teaches is that writing is wholly demanding and that mere intention is insufficient. But when the demand is met, we get work something like Freedstransforming, enigmatic, and painful in its brutal honesty.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.