Spouses and the Creative People They Marry


Writers love writing about other writers’s wives. The spouse of a creative person has recently become a popular subject to novelize. But this fad is just a cheap trick, says Sarah Weinman in New Republic, that frees authors from the biographic reality of their subjects and eliminates the ordinary drudgery involved in writing a book. And it isn’t always enough to salvage a story:

The appeal of these spousal tales is in their attempted elevation of the writer’s life to the same level of their art, and in the idea that the day-in, day-out toil of writing is part of a larger, more significant narrative arc. In the hands of capable practitioners, these fictionalizations of a writer’s orbit clue readers in to struggles that play out in the authors’ work. The less capable turn emotional depth into tone-deaf soap opera.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →