My first novel YOU ARE ONE OF THEM was published by The Penguin Press in 2013. My writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Guernica, The Millions, and the 2011 Pushcart Prize anthology. elliottholt.com
Time lists 21 living female authors (in addition to new Pulitzer winner Donna Tartt) that you should read. It’s a good list, including Alice Munro, Rachel Kusher, Claire Messud and many awesome others, but it’s too short. In addition to the names on that Time list, I’d add: Lydia Davis, Marilynne Robinson, Jennifer Egan, Joan Didion, Yiyun Li, Lauren Groff, Jamie Quatro, Laura van den Berg, Ramona Ausubel, Elizabeth McCracken, Ann Patchett, Anne Carson, Marie-Helene Bertino, Danielle Evans, Caitlin Horrocks, Sarah Waters, Lydia Millet, Jenny Offill, Stacey D’Erasmo, Molly Antopol, Adelle Waldman, Roxane Gay, Porochista Khakpour, Leslie Jamison, Elif Batuman, Nami Mun, Maggie Nelson, Maggie Shipstead, Jennifer DuBois, Alice Elliott Dark, Karen Joy Fowler, Emily St. John Mandel, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Dani Shapiro, Meghan Daum…I could go on, but you get the idea.
The point is: There are a lot of amazing writers in the world who happen to be female.
In about a month, Stacey D’Erasmo’s new novel Wonderland will be in stores. It’s a great (and very sexy) book about a middle-aged rock star on her comeback tour in Europe. It’s a story about second chances and making art and following dreams. Trust me. You want to read this one.
Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us—a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain—it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say “going through the motions”—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind.
This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.