"Corrections are possible, even in a career such as mine; it is the 25th anniversary of my first born, Lithium for Medea, my first novel, but I'm afraid Los Angeles did not have a critical infrastructure to deal with that book in 1979. I think the Los Angeles Times saw themselves as having a missionary duty, which they followed. That was to bring the barely literate heathens of the region as filtered through New York. Lithium for Medea is probably the first girl rite of passage story written by a Los Angeles girl."
Ms. Braverman's work encouraged other L.A. women to write. "They tell me that; they say, 'What you did is you gave me permission.' I never stopped in my battle to have women inhabit the page with the same dimensionality and the same arsenal of weapons as men. They haven't had this. Because, first of all, when we talk about literature, we're only talking about what men have said about what other men have written.
"Our women have been able to vote less than one hundred years. The first woman's voice I heard was Sylvia Plath. Joan Didion's would have been the second. Democracy was probably my favorite Didion novel. I recently reread The White Album, and the essays hold up, although I must tell you I had great loathing for the National Book Award memoir, her newest book. I no longer felt that she had the power to convince me.
"Women have to behave on the page like they're all nurses, housewives, librarians, that women are confined to the same jobs they're consigned to in life, the same roles that the patriarchy in literature, and in everything that we call law and order, the gravity of this world, is such that the rules for men and women are different. I would say that, historically, the personal elements of women's lives let their poetry, fiction, novels, and essays be derided and dismissed.
"When men lead lives of disturbing chaos, when men abandon children and collect divorces and run red lights drunk, accumulating essays with extravagant appetite -- we admire them. Men are, by the intensity of their passion, the heroic embodiment of the mythic, tormented artist so that their emotional defamations, the silly and collateral damage of their activities are rendered insignificant. When women exhibit similar behavior, when women engage in risky endeavors, when women respond to the lore of pharmacologically conscious dissection, we call them mentally ill. They can be disposed of. For a male, risk and deviational war wounds, men receive metaphorical purple hearts, while -- for the same behavior -- women are locked in institutions.
"For the 35 years of my writing life, I have battled stereotypes about what girls and women are allowed to do or say or think or feel. It's remarkable when one thinks that Plath's work is almost 50 years old, and she is still not in the canon."
"And," I said, "her late poetry is often considered excessive."
"That's when she did her greatest work. She dared to complain about the smog of cooking and the smog of diapers, and what it's like to be abandoned with two children on the coldest of winter days. How dare she write poems complaining about this?
"The child is having a tantrum, and she had no money and couldn't get the heat on, and one thing and another, and the fact that her rage -- women are not allowed certain upper stratus of emotions. It's considered impolite. Women are supposed to be as if at a tea party on the page. 'Would you like more sugar with that? Are you sure you have enough napkins?'
"Plath is still being castigated for her work. While women are the dominant number of readers, one has to wonder what they are finding as models for their identity since all they are given are conventional, anemic renderings of the female experience.
"I set out to reclaim girlhood. I wanted to make this region that I knew as a child, barefoot. I can only know a region when I've had my body exposed to it, when I've been rained on by it, when I've been sunburned by it, when elements have stamped across my flesh and told me their stories, in indelible ways.
"I knew Los Angeles like that. I knew it from being a child, walking the streets in vacant lots, down to the Santa Monica Pier. You must walk a city, and its side streets, and climb its hills and be scratched by the vegetation to know the different sounds of what is danger in the air."
"Are you glad you've come back to California?"
"Yes. One thing I learned, when I was gone for those six years in self-exile, is that there is a kind of progressive, experimental feel that California has. I live here in California, but it is as easy to take my cultural bearings from Mexico City or Bangkok as it is from the East Coast or Europe. The literary climate here is so open for confession. I think our writers in California are more confessional because we're more open, we're less traditional. I think we're more influenced by things other than the standard American perimeters because there really is no border with Mexico.
"There's this continuous region. Vegetation is the same for hundreds of miles, up almost to San Francisco, you could still be in Mexico. So, I think that when you live in a border area, that this influences your thinking. Frantic Transmissions talks about that, what it was like to grow up in a region that is nothing like what the fictional national interpretation is.
"Growing up in Los Angeles, I was assigned to typing, apron making, meatloaf making -- because of socioeconomics."
"How is your meatloaf?"
"My meatloaf is spectacular."
"Mine is terrible."
"Not mine. It's one of the few things I can cook because I don't cook. I try to do as few unnecessary diverting tasks as possible. I know that there are many professional women who will do things like plan their court calendars around soccer practice and ballet schedules and their children's enhancement activities.