Hagiophagy

Elaine Showalter

  • Impossible Saints by Michèle Roberts
    Little, Brown, 308 pp, £14.99, May 1997, ISBN 0 316 63957 5

In ‘Taking It Easy’, one of the stories in During Mother’s Absence (1993), Michèle Roberts provides a recipe for a deliciously female mode of creative imagination. Her heroine, a freelance short-story writer of many genres and pseudonyms (Alexis K. Triffel, Virginia Lindisfarne, Jay C. Dacey), leaves her London life with its perpetual diets, its writing ‘squeezed in’ between domestic errands and maternal obligations, its dual enemies of ‘sleep and food’, to stay for a few weeks in the house of her friend Angèle’s mother in South-West France. Here she hopes to overcome her writer’s block and fulfil her ambition to produce a collection of stories ‘rivalling those of Colette and Katherine Mansfield and Jean Rhys all put together’. Angèle passes on advice from her brother Jim, a painter: ‘You have to make the problem part of the subject. So, obviously what you should do is write a story about writer’s block.’

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