Monday, February 12, 2018

Sky Gilbert on Ayn Rand and Elena Ferrante

Ayn Rand Was My Mother

Yes, I mean – no. I have been in denial all these years. And that is more than just a river in Africa. Because my mother was a voice in my head for so long (she’s still there, quieter than when I was young) shall I say it simply, unabashedly, with no shame? I have always been very susceptible to a strong female voice. Anger is just voiced fear; and my mother was a very angry woman. Uncompromising. She taught me not to settle for less; that has been the bane of my existence. Nothing was ever good enough for her, nor will it ever be for me. I read The Fountainhead when I was 14, – the naked Howard Roark with the red hair standing on a cliff demanded that I never compromise. I wore a dollar-sign bracelet. I did not have friends; they were beneath me – giggling and flirting, obsessed with sex and dating. Nay, I would walk beside tall buildings, alone, on windy days, and my fearless mind would affirm; I am an artist and I am quite pleased no one understand me. Recently I have been reading Elena Ferrante, at first I didn’t know why I loved her novels so much. Soon, it became all too clear. I tried to read Frantumaglia, I had to stop. Elena Ferrante is Ayn Rand. Different economics, different politics – but the same uncompromising voice. Elena is asked to do a reading. ‘I won’t,’ she says ‘tell them I won’t. They scorned my first novel, and they want to humiliate me now? I categorically refuse.’ Elena is asked to write an article for a magazine. ‘The wanted to change one word, I said to them no – please no – I will not be insulted – these words are my life, would you take away my life? Strangle me with adjectives? Shove adverbs down my throat until I choke? Go away; you will kill me with the fatuous infertility of your unctuous imagination.’ Now I imagine that I want to be done with Ayn Rand, with Elena Ferrante, and most of all I want to be done with my mother. But that scorned Virago, that woman who turns her fear to scorching fury lies behind every word I speak. She would hector me, and at the same time she would demand that I enjoy every minute of it; I am thus, temperamentally, hag-ridden. She beckons. I must – nay, I will – too gladly – submit.

Sky Gilbert is a poet, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, theatre director, and drag queen extraordinaire.  He was co-founder and artistic director of Torontos Buddies in Bad Times Theatre – one of the worlds largest gay and lesbian theatres – from 1979 to 1997. He has had more than 40 plays produced, and written 7 critically acclaimed novels and three award winning poetry collections. He has received three Dora Mavor Moore Awards as well as the Pauline McGibbon Award, and The Silver Ticket Award. There is a street in Toronto named after him: Sky Gilbert Lane.’  Hes latest novel Sad Old Faggot (ECW Press) was critically acclaimed. He is presently finishing a book of essays entitled Small Things to be published by Guernica Press in fall 2018.

1 comment:

  1. This is a hilarious and surprising comparison and I think it works! As this essay makes clear, Ayn Rand and Elena Ferrante don't share a political/economic perspective (an important distinction!) but there is a fierceness in both of their perspectives that can be terrifying. I don't read Ayn Rand, but I have on occasion had to put down Elena Ferrante (love her work) because I was afraid of what "mother" was going to do next.