And then Zadie says something I don’t expect, something much more surprising than her previous admission: “It did seem to me, when I was a kid and also now that I’m a grown-up writer, that a lot of male writers have a certainty that I have never been able to have. I kept on thinking I would grow into it, but I’m never sure I’m doing the right thing.”

Recently, a number of novels by women have investigated the nature of female subjectivity. Sheila Heti’s “How Should A Person Be?” and, in a more astringent mode, Rachel Cusk’s “Outline,” present female subjectivity as fragmentary or contingent. In order to dramatize such internal disarray, Heti paints a Cubist portrait of herself from shards of memory, taped conversations, lists and dialogue, while Cusk removes her narrator from direct scrutiny altogether, allowing her to take shape as a curiously empty space formed by the currents of talk that swirl around her.

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