Ayelet Waldman, The Divulging Mother

We're back to regular mothers' days now, the ones without lilacs or overbuttered toast in bed, which leads me to post some links to podcasted interviews with Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Right before Official Mother's Day 2009, Waldman, a mother of four, was interviewed by Terry Gross on WHYY's Fresh Air and by Leonard Lopate for his show on WNYC to promote her memoir of motherhood.  Both interviews display what a good talker Waldman is: articulate yet relaxed, open and funny and intelligent, and extraordinarily comfortable with public self-divulgence.

Motherhood and Passion
Bad Mother was sparked by an essay published in The New York Times' "Modern Love" column that extolled Waldman's superseding love for her husband, literary star Michael Chabon, and which touched a zeitgeist nerve. The essay garnered her internet frissons and brickbats plus an appearance on Oprah. In retrospect the controversy seems to be one of semantics--erotic love vs. maternal love--but from the fallout a mommy memoirist was born. The book covers other aspects of motherhood and marriage within the author's economically comfortable experience--this is no Angela's Ashes--but it is unusual in that it is the mommy calling out the mommy.

Dropping Criminals for Writing with Toddlers
Waldman decided to drop her career as a federal criminal defender when she became envious of the time Chabon was spending with her daughter, and the time that her daughter was spending with Chabon. With the perfect mentor already in the house, she combined writing with motherhood, beginning with a series of mommy mystery books and moving onto less genre-ish fiction with Daughter's Keeper and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (for which Natalie Portman was cast in the upcoming movie, natch).

Intimacy vs. Philosophy
The Bad Mother interviews are both about 30 minutes long and cover similar ground, but the tones are dissimilar. Waldman's emotional openness with Terry Gross is startling and comes early (it's certainly too intense for the child-passenger portion of your carpool). She shares poignant details of a pregnancy that raised genetic concerns, and the lack of self-protectiveness in her recounting of how she and her husband made the decision to abort is disarming and brave. Waldman also talks without coyness about bipolar disorder and her early sexual experience. In the Leonard Lopate interview she is frank but breezier, and also more composed (perhaps because it came after). If you can handle an emotional interview that is by turns painful and wry, listen to the Fresh Air podcast; if you want to keep it lighter but still get a good idea of the book, listen to the Lopate.  In both conversations I think Waldman makes a valiant case for honesty as empowerment.

Ayelet Waldman on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on iTunes and NPR site (with excerpt)
Ayelet Waldman on The Leonard Lopate Show: on iTunes and WNYC site
Ayelet Waldman's site
Q & A with Waldman in SF Gate.

[Warning:  downloads sometimes expire. If you want it, download soon and listen whenever.]