Secrets and spies
#MeToo is far from over
Since Helen Schulman’s new novel published earlier this year, readers have approached her with the same message: “Thank you for not giving up. It felt like #MeToo was over.”
Lucky Dogs (Knopf, 2023) may be fiction, but it tackles the continued reality of sexual assault, workplace surveillance, and betrayals of trust at the heart of #MeToo’s revelations. This week at Public Seminar, we’re sitting down for a close reading of the novel. Brianna Corley chats with Schulman about typecasting and the “bad victim.” Paloma Velasco reviews the novel’s nail-biting narrative of trauma and hope. And an excerpt from Lucky Dogs reminds us that a sense of humor can help us find strength and rebellion amidst pain.
I was a nail-biter in high school. I stopped when I went to college, embarrassed by what now seemed like a childish lack of control. Last week, Helen Schulman’s new anxiety-inducing novel, Lucky Dogs, made me relapse. But I’m okay with it. This time, nail-biting feels like victory. Published over the summer, Schulman’s latest novel, Lucky Dogs, follows the story of two women: an actress, Meredith (“Merry”), and an Israeli spy named Nina. They’re connected by a serial sexual predator named the “Rug,” a powerful Hollywood producer who raped Merry as she was trying to become a Hollywood star. If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it is.
Brianna Corley and Helen Schulman
More important to me was to try to examine the idea of the good victim versus the bad victim, and if there is such a distinction—I don’t really believe there is, I think a victim is a victim. But through all these trials and sometimes in the court of public opinion the defense takes the same position: “She wanted it,” “She asked for it,” “The sex was consensual,” “She’s a slut,” “You see the way she dresses,” “We have this dirt on her,” and it’s just like slime buckets of degrading material are thrown at these women, people who have the courage to say, “This is what happened to me.” So I wanted to create characters that were being cast as “bad victims,” in the hope that the reader would come out of it and think, “No, they are not bad victims, they are victims, period.”
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I’ll admit it, I can be an asshole sometimes.
In flight from Paris to LA, I stashed my red leather billfold—where I kept my euros and various other foreign IDs and bank cards—in a side pocket of my backpack next to my lip balm, tweezers, and magnifying mirror. My plan had been to spend the next twelve hours revitalizing my career by plucking out each and every one of my eyebrow hairs, a blissfully labor-intensive succession of satisfaction-inducing pain. Trichotillomania, the docs call it. Most trichsters pull the hair right out of their scalps, aiming to yank that little white pith with the black ball of root attached. I can still picture my mom’s open-mouthed stare whenever she tugged up the whole package in one shot—she had bald patches and bloody scabs all over her head—was it proof her luck was changing? Personally, I find the nerve endings on my face extra zingy, a more gratifying ping of pain. Plus, I’d thought I’d like the look, my forehead as clean and smooth as a baby’s butt, signifying my inner purity.