Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State

September 6, 2018 – Slate

The Agony of Bureaucracy

A conversation with Lydia Kiesling about The Golden State.

By 

The job Daphne drives away from is at a university that looks a lot like UC–Berkeley. How does your novel compare to other campus novels?

Some of my literary sensibility was for better or worse formed by novels like Lucky Jim, with a comic protagonist we are meant to see as Everyman. I’m amazed at how long it took me to realize not only that Lucky Jim is a terrible Everyman but that there’s a lot of harm written into that book—the casualties of the book (poor Margaret Peel) are presented as funny. I still love the book and have a soft spot for that campus-novel sensibility that is arch and judgmental and barbarously unempathetic, but it’s basically irreconcilable with the way women are socialized, and with the demands of motherhood. My book is in some ways the result of taking a Lucky Jim type of sensibility but putting it on a woman with a baby. Suddenly, the book is completely different. There are stakes.”

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