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'A man sitting at a desk typing'

20 December 2010

'Male writers write books with themselves as characters in them, because we never cease to feel that there's something less than manly about the way that we earn our living. Literary creation is an isolated business involving nothing in the way of physical aptitude, courage, leadership or business acumen. Writers are cut off from all of the male-bonding rituals that gestate in the world of work: we don't commute, punch the clock or binge-drink on Fridays. (Many of us binge-drink all week.) An honest male writer's biography would be histrionically dull, consisting mainly of lengthy descriptions of a man sitting at a desk typing.

While in the 20th century women have made great inroads into the formerly male preserves of work, they still aren't big enough for women writers to feel quite so acutely this sense of disconnected superfluousness. On the contrary I suspect that many women writers face the same dilemma as their non-literary sisters: is it selfish for me to define myself by my work rather than my family role at all, regardless of what that work may be? However, unto the fourth and fifth generation of feminism I confidently predict that opportunities will emerge for female writers who wish to fictionalise themselves - many may regard this as one of the more dubious benefits of sexual equality, but I, for one, am looking forward to it.'

Will Self in The Times