Belfast Telegraph

Jane Graham: Why women don’t have the ego for genius

By Jane Graham

I’d love to know what Martin Amis makes of the whole Wayne and Coleen affair.

Reviewing a collection of letters which Philip Larkin sent to Monica Jones, the formidable English lecturer with whom the poet had a 35 year affair, Amis concluded this week that “Larkin's life was a failure; his work was a triumph. That is all that matters. Because the work, unlike the life, lives on.”

Leaving aside the unchivalrous way ‘fearsome windbag’ Jones is described by Amis, his casual assertion of the superiority of art over ‘life’ is a show-stopper.

Does he really believe what he’s saying? Or is he just implying that great artists — geniuses, perhaps, like himself — make an overwhelming commitment to art that others, mere mortals, perhaps, like us, can’t grasp?

I can’t dismiss his words however. I’ve often wondered if the reason there are fewer universally acclaimed female writers/poets/painters is because most women are not comfortable with the self-indulgence and ego a statement like Amis’ requires.

Perhaps for a great talent to come to fruition it must be nurtured to the exclusion of everything else, including the feelings and needs of other people, perpetually encouraged by the belief that the work ‘is all that matters’.

I ask myself, if I were as gifted as Philip Larkin or even Amis, would I value my talent more than the happiness and |security of my husband and my children? I don’t think I would. I don’t think many women could.

And there’s the rub.

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