A Kind of Craziness: Susanna Moore on Women, Writing, Sex and Feminism
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The closing scene of Susanna Moore's 1995 novel, In The Cut, remains one of the most shocking and powerfully written episodes of sexual violence by a contemporary female author. Narrator, Frannie Avery, watches as her breasts are sliced from her body. This violent description later shifts to a disengaged poetic consciousness in which Frannie's narration dissolves into quotation. Moore's juxtaposition of meditative description with an account of dismemberment renders the scene so beautiful, that it is potentially hugely troubling. As one critic's response reflects, how can a presumed feminist justify producing an 'erotic story involving the matter-of-fact mutilation of women'? It was Moore's responses to queries such as these, as well as my own ambivalent attraction to her narratives, as a woman, a writer, and a feminist, that I wanted to gain a greater understanding of by interviewing the author. As a reader of Moore's fiction, I am fascinated, as many women would be, by the representations of femininity in her novels. From The Whiteness of Bones to Sleeping Beauties, In the Cut, One Last Look and The Big Girls, it seems that the women in her novels seem to encounter certain hardships and dangers, simply because they are women. Perhaps more disturbing than Moore's unapologetic depiction of sexualised attacks on the female body was my discovery, during research prior to the interview, that In the Cut is listed on Playboy's 'Top 25 'sexiest' novels of all time.' Moore acknowledges that 'it is important for a writer to understand and anticipate the response of their readers,' and that often the topics of her novels have been chosen to elicit a particular response, to change the way her writing and her identity as an author has been perceived - but is it always a desirable response? And are authors ever free of moral responsibility?