‘In the struggle between the public’s inviolable right to be diverted and the individual’s wish to be left alone, the public almost always prevails.’
Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman
‘… these feminist bitches (you won’t mind me using that word because that’s what they are), these feminist bitches who told lies to destroy a man’s career …’
John Laws on The First Stone
We meet in one of the ubiquitous coffee shops in Brunswick Street. I order a cappuccino, all milky froth. Hers is a short black; bitter and strong. Over the past decade our relationship has been desultory, unevenly balanced: we live in different states and she is a famous novelist. I have always been in a supplicant role. We have something approaching a friendship, maybe. Today she defers to me. She has just reviewed my book on the Orr case for the Times Literary Supplement. And liked it, she says. She wants my help.
One of the most beguiling things about her, I have always felt, is her candour. She can say the most startlingly frank and personal things. It encourages a sense of intimacy and equal candour in return, although she is the one taking notes, in her black book. We talk. Several cappuccinos for me; she sips her coffee, cautiously. We are one-time feminists, approaching the meridian of our lives, confident, for the first time, in our relatively new marriages. Feminism we agree, did not lead us down the path we expected to follow. Would we still call ourselves feminists? I think not. She does not say.