I have now got a text of the lecture about “Women in Power” (from antiquity to Mrs May) that I am giving for the London Review of Books in the British Museum tomorrow evening (a nice indication of the very friendly rivalry between the TLS and LRB that I am allowed out to do this!). It is also going to be broadcast in a slightly edited form on Radio 4 on Monday at 8.00. Not too heavily edited I hope, but where occasionally I stop to chat about a slide on the screen, the radio audience will be spared the tantalising puzzle of what on earth I am talking about.
There is something very nerve wracking about doing one of these gigs, especially with a radio tie-in. The basic point is that if you turn up and give merely an OK lecture in front of a few hundred people, there IS a degree of humiliation attached. It’s not nice walking out of the lecture room behind a couple of people, who don’t know you are in hearing distance and are saying “well, that was alright, but really not her best”. But on the radio it lives with you a lot longer, online, in tweets and emails and whatever. The humiliation for getting it even a bit wrong is far greater.
The truth is that the actual writing doesn’t take hugely long. It’s the way that it invades your head for weeks that is the time-consuming bit. When you are not actually thinking about anything else, like in my case emperors (and my “imperial” trip to Dublin is something I shall return to soon), it’s always invading your thoughts and your sleep. How am I going to move from A to B? What exactly am I trying to say? How will I tie things up at the end, and so forth?
In this case, I have to thank the son, who gave me Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland for Christmas – a wonderful, and knowing, early twentieth-century fantasy about a long lost nation of women only, invaded by some American blokes. It has given me a beginning and an end, as I hope you will see. And well worth a read it is too.
I hope you will enjoy the lecture too!
The new version: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/herland/