Rise and shine: Meg Wolitzer'sThe Ten Year Nap is an eye-opener


Chapter One of Meg Wolitzer's novel, The Ten Year Nap, begins with this eloquent wake-up call:
"All around the country, the women were waking up. Their alarm clocks bleated one by one, making soothing sounds or grating sounds or the stirrings of a favorite song. There were hums and beeps and a random burst of radio. There were wind chimes and roaring surf, and the electronic approximation of birdsong and other gentle animal noises. All of it accompanied the passage of time, sliding forward in liquid crystal. Almost everything in these women's homes required a plug. Voltage stuttered through the curls of wire, and if you put your ear to one of the complicated clocks in any of the bedrooms, you could hear the burble of industry deep inside its cavity. Something was quietly happening."

In The Ten Year Nap, Meg Wolitzer offers us an extended play date with four women who set aside their careers in order to stay home and care for their kids. Ten years later, they open their eyes to find that—well, they’re ten years older, so are their kids, and so is the world around them. Contrasting vignettes place the story of their reawakening alongside the troubles and triumphs of their foremoms. We’re hanging out with sisters but haunted by ghosts of feminism past.

Quoting Sheri Holman from the Washington Post:
If Wolitzer were content to people her book solely with women happily married and wealthy enough to afford the luxury of ambivalence, it would be a too-familiar read. But she weaves in vignettes of marginal South Dakotans and various iconoclastic mothers and muses, subtly showing how women's individual choices (or lack thereof) are inextricable from the history and future of feminism…Wolitzer perfectly captures her women's resolve in the face of a dizzying array of conflicting loyalties.

When The Ten Year Nap came out in hardcover last year, the Chicago Tribune described Wolitzer as being “as precise and rigorous an observer of social status as Tom Wolfe…as incisive and pitiless and clear-eyed a chronicler of female-male tandems as Philip Roth or John Updike.” (Wow.) And the New York Times said, “The tartly funny Wolitzer is a miniaturist who can nail a contemporary type, scene, or artifact with deadeye accuracy.”

High praise, but great reviews are nothing new for Meg. Her debut novel, Sleepwalking, was published to critical acclaim a year after she graduated college in 1981. Her steadily growing body of work—novels, short stories, and screenplays—has earned a steadily growing audience. She won a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1994 and a Pushcart Prize in 1998. And as far as I can tell, none of this has gone to her head.

“I am a fiction writer who, like most writers, is happiest when I'm working,” Meg says. “I have somewhat erratic work habits, and can go for weeks without producing much, then suddenly find myself in a whirlwind of productivity that lasts a long time and occupies most of my waking hours. Between those productive bouts I tend to read a lot, mostly contemporary novels, an activity that serves as a kind of re-fueling that I seem to need. I love being excited and keyed up by other people's novels; the best of them remind me of how powerful fiction can be.”

More from Meg tomorrow when she drops by Boxing the Octopus to chat about her career and offer some insight into the state of the industry. Meanwhile, click here to read the rest of Chapter One, and look for The Ten Year Nap in trade paperback everywhere this week.

Comments

Lynne said…
you've made me want to read the book. I am in the middle of my 10 year nap ... it's been going on for close on 15 years now, and still no end in sight.
The first chapter looks great. Wolitzer can certainly write (as those fab reviews attest!)
Joni Rodgers said…
She is an amazing writer. Tune in tomorrow.

Hang in there, Lynn. I never heard anyone in the chemo ward say, "Gosh, if only I hadn't spent so much time with those darn kids..."