NaNoFeed: My Wicked Grandma, or encouragement from literary ancestors

In “real life,” which is to say in my biological family tree, I have a grandma and a great-aunt who ran off to Hollywood in the 1930s to be chorus girls. In my literary family tree, I have a wicked grandma too: Aurore Dudevant nee Dupin, known to posterity as George Sand.

She was one of the pulp writers par excellence of the nineteenth century, along with Dickens, Balzac and Dostoevsky. By a multiplicity of routes she was the godmother of Russian literature and via that connection, an influence on twentieth-century African-American literature as well. Isabelle Naginski’s study George Sand: Writing for her Life was positively inspirational, along with Francoise Genevray’s George Sand et ses contemporains russes, which taught me that one’s greatest influence is not necessarily in one’s home country. In the age of the internets, I definitely take that to heart!

There’s a huge piece of her oeuvre that would be classified as nineteenth-century “chick lit.” She also wrote metaphysical thrillers, show-biz road movies, and political soap operas that sneaked past the censors in czarist Russia because they were “only stories” written by someone who was “just a woman.”

She wrote a variety of utopian fiction, some of which shared turf with the science-fiction of the time. She was a serious Jules Verne fan, and her request for a sea story was apparently the genesis of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which makes her one of the grandmothers of steampunk.

She’s seriously neglected even now; I first heard about her in music class, via her long-term relationship with Frederic Chopin. (That was actually my first model for a working partnership of two artists; once I’d seen the example of the two of them working side by side, she at her desk and he at his piano, standard-issue marriage did not appeal.)

She didn’t worry about genre and she wrote the story she wanted to write, in spite of many struggles with publishers (she ran through several!) about what was marketable as a “George Sand novel.” When her publisher wouldn’t put out her latest work, she went independent and serialized it herself in the progressive newspaper she founded to lobby for reform in her home province. Vastly successful, incredibly prolific (60-70 novels!), independent… what more could one hope for in a literary wicked grandma?

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