Mar 11, 2013

The Body Always Wins

As there always is, there was more to my interview with Nobel winner Elfriede Jelinek than I was able to fit into my Times piece. She asked, through her translator Gitta Honegger, if she could publish the entire interview, and who was I to say no? The entire email transcript is here. A key excerpt:
Q: I haven't counted the lines, but I'm pretty sure Jackie talks more about Marilyn than about her husband Jack. Though she continually calls Marilyn not a threat, a nobody, she spends a lot of the play talking about her, almost to an obsessive degree. Is this meant to undercut Jackie's veracity--to show she's an unreliable narrator, someone whose protestations we can't take at face value?
EJ. That’s possible. Women are often more preoccupied with their rivals than their cheating husbands. Of course Marilyn was never a danger to Jackie, but there is the dichotomy between one woman who defines herself through thinking and another, who is primarily a beautiful body (I am conscious of the injustice, since Marilyn was much more intelligent than her public image and Jackie probably more superficial than one assumes), but the body always wins. A woman gains value on account of her youth and beauty (both had it! But Marilyn was a creature of light, who defined herself through her exterior, the body, and you can’t object to the body, because the body can’t be contradicted, at best it can be surgically changed), rather than through thinking and working. A man is what he makes of himself, a woman is what she is. Objection overruled. A woman succumbs to this injustice; she cannot elevate her sexual value through knowledge and know-how. A man can. And, of course, Jackie knew that.
Meanwhile, the New York critics have weighed in, mostly positively though with some misgivings, on Jackie's debut.

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