An episode from 2/21/22: Tonight, I continue the discussion of jealousy that has threaded its way through a handful of episodes on this podcast (including Jealousy Part 1). The bulk of this episode is spent talking about the essayist and novelist Joan Didion, whose fairly affluent lifestyle belied many of my merely defensive (and indeed jealous) notions about just how truly talented the rich or well-off could really be.
At the same time, though, I make what I think is a fair point: after listening to Didion’s memoir about her husband’s death, The Year of Magical Thinking, I notice how unfortunate it is that, out of all the memoirs of love and long marriage and mourning that are published, of course the one by Didion becomes a bestseller. A similarly brilliant and moving book, written by an unknown widow about her unknown husband, would likely never achieve the prominence that Didion’s book has, and that’s a shame.
So that while my jealousy and defensiveness in the face of those who are well-off, and those who are famous, can easily be seen as petty, at some point it does highlight a real disparity in our culture, on the basic level of whose voices we hear, and whose stories we are told. There is a great sense that many of us, who have few connections and who will never be well known, are barely scraping by (creatively, financially, and otherwise), while those with even half a foot in the door can game the system without even really trying.