Within the winter of 2003, Norah Vincent, a 35-year-old journalist, started to apply passing as a person.
With the assistance of a make-up artist, she realized to simulate stubble by snipping bits of wool and portray them on her chin. She wore her hair, already quick, lower in a flattop, and acquired rectangular framed glasses, to intensify the angles of her face. She weight-trained to construct up the muscle groups in her chest and again, certain her breasts with a too-small sports activities bra and wore a jock strap filled with a smooth prosthetic penis.
She educated for months with a vocal coach on the Juilliard College in Manhattan, who taught her to deepen her voice and sluggish it down, to lean again as she spoke somewhat than leaning in, and to make use of her breath extra effectively. Then she ventured out to dwell as a person for 18 months, calling herself Ned, and to chronicle the expertise.
She did so in “Self-Made Man,” and when the ebook got here out in 2006, it was a virtually instantaneous greatest vendor. It made Ms. Vincent a media darling; she appeared on “20/20” and on “The Colbert Report,” the place she and Stephen Colbert teased one another about soccer and penis measurement.
However the ebook was no joke. It was a nuanced and considerate work. It drew comparisons to “Black Like Me,” the white journalist John Howard Griffin’s 1961 ebook about his experiences passing as a Black man within the segregated Deep South. David Kamp, writing in The New York Instances, known as Ms. Vincent’s ebook “wealthy and audacious.”
Ms. Vincent died on July 6 at a clinic in Switzerland. She was 53. Her loss of life, which was not reported on the time, was confirmed on Thursday by Justine Hardy, a buddy. The loss of life, she stated, was medically assisted, or what is called a voluntary assisted loss of life.
Ms. Vincent was a lesbian. She was not transgender, or gender fluid. She was, nevertheless, all for gender and id. As a contract contributor to The Los Angeles Instances, The Village Voice and The Advocate, she had written essays on these subjects that infected some readers.
She was a libertarian. She tilted at postmodernism and multiculturalism. She argued for the rights of fetuses and in opposition to id politics, which she noticed as infantilizing and irresponsible. She didn’t imagine that transsexuals have been members of the alternative intercourse after they’d surgical procedure and had taken hormones, a place that led one author to label her a bigot. She was a contrarian, and happy with it.
In her 12 months and a half residing as Ned, Ms. Vincent put him in quite a lot of stereotypical, hypermasculine conditions. He joined a blue-collar bowling league, although he was a horrible bowler. (His teammates have been variety and cheered him on; they thought he was homosexual, Ms. Vincent realized later, as a result of they thought he bowled like a woman.)
He spent weeks in a monastery with cloistered monks. He went to strip golf equipment and dated girls, although he was rebuffed as a rule in singles bars. He labored in gross sales, hustling coupon books and different low-margin merchandise door-to-door with fellow salesmen who, with their cartoon bravado, appeared drawn from the 1983 David Mamet play “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Lastly, at an Iron John retreat, a therapeutic masculinity workshop — assume drum circles and hero archetypes — modeled on the work of the boys’s motion writer Robert Bly, Ned started to lose it. Being Ned had worn Ms. Vincent down; she felt alienated and disassociated, and after the retreat she checked herself right into a hospital for melancholy.
She was struggling, she wrote, for a similar cause that lots of the males she met have been struggling: Their assigned gender roles, she discovered, have been suffocating them and alienating them from themselves.
“Manhood is a leaden mythology driving on the shoulders of each man,” she wrote, and so they wanted assist: “If males are nonetheless actually in energy, then it advantages us all significantly to heal the dyspeptic on the wheel.”
Ms. Vincent practiced one other feat of immersive journalism for her subsequent ebook, “Voluntary Insanity: My Yr Misplaced and Discovered within the Loony Bin” (2008).
The thought got here to her after her Iron John unraveling, when she had dedicated herself to the hospital as a suicide threat. Whereas in therapy, she stated, she thought to herself: “Jesus, what a freak present. All I’ve to do is take notes and I’m Balzac.”
What transpired was much less tidy than “Self Made Man,” nevertheless. As she toured psychological establishments — a Bellevue-like city one, a high-end facility within the Midwest and at last a New Age clinic — Ms. Vincent discovered herself more and more mired in melancholy and juggling a cocktail of medicines. The ebook’s conclusion didn’t endear her to reviewers, as she exhorted these in extremis like her to maneuver on and “put your boots on.”
Norah Mary Vincent was born on Sept. 20, 1968, in Detroit. Her mom, Juliet (Randall) Ford, was an actress; her father, Robert Vincent, was a lawyer for the Ford Motor Firm. The youngest of three, Norah grew up in Detroit and London, the place Mr. Vincent was posted for some time.
She studied philosophy at Williams Faculty, the place at 21 she realized she was a lesbian, she informed The New York Instances in 2001, when her contrarian freelance columns started drawing hearth. She spent 11 years as a graduate scholar in philosophy at Boston Faculty and labored as an assistant editor on the Free Press, a publishing home that earlier than it folded in 2012 put out books on faith and social science and had, within the Eighties, a neoconservative bent.
Ms. Vincent’s first work of fiction was “Thy Neighbor” (2012), a darkish, comedian thriller about an unemployed alcoholic author who begins spying on his neighbors whereas making an attempt to resolve the thriller of his mother and father’ murder-suicide: voyeurism as a method to self-knowledge. “I’ll by no means be entire or unhurt or variety once more,” Nick, her protagonist, says. “However I can know all the things about my neighbors’ lives, and in so doing, I can ease what’s unhappy in me.”
Ms. Vincent is survived by her mom and her brothers, Alex and Edward. A quick marriage to Kristen Erickson led to divorce.
In 2013, Ms. Vincent started a brand new novel, “Adeline,” through which she imagined the inside lifetime of Virginia Woolf from the second Woolf conceived her novel “To the Lighthouse” — in her bathtub — to the morning in 1941 when she walked into the river close to her house in Sussex, England, her pockets stuffed with stones, and drowned.
As Ms. Vincent was engaged on the ebook, she tried to kill herself.
“Adeline,” she wrote later in an essay for the web site Literary Hub, was “not only a work of fiction, or an act of literary ventriloquism. It was my suicide word.”
Getting dangerously misplaced in her work was nothing new, she added. “In ‘Adeline,’ I did what I had achieved so typically earlier than. I disappeared into another person, and I emerged as myself.”
When the ebook was printed in 2015, Carlene Bauer, a novelist and memoirist, reviewed it for The New York Instances E book Assessment. “Vincent,” she wrote, “is a delicate recorder of a thoughts’s actions because it shifts out and in of inspiration, and because it fights earlier than submitting to despair.”
Interview: Patrick Stewart
“I acted Macbeth for exactly 365 days,” says the actor, whose new memoir is “Making It So.” “The role got into me so deeply it dominated my life at the time and caused me to drink too much alcohol after the performance was over. No other role I have played has affected me so profoundly.”
Can You Connect These Memorable Characters With Their Novels?
Welcome to Lit Trivia, the Book Review’s multiple-choice quiz designed to test your knowledge of books and their authors. This week’s installment asks you to identify memorable characters from mid-20th-century novels. After the last question, you’ll find a list of books highlighted in the quiz.
The Book Review Quiz Bowl appears on the Books page every week with a new topic. Click here for the archive of past quizzes.
Modern Masculinity Is Broken. She Knows How to Fix It.
With the arrival of her part memoir, part manifesto “How to Be a Woman” in 2011, Caitlin Moran established herself as one of her generation’s funniest and most fearless feminist voices. Moran, who is 48 and who first made her mark in the early 1990s as a wunderkind music journalist for British publications, has published four ribald and emotionally honest books of nonfiction and two novels since then and has continued to work as a columnist at The Times of London. Now, with her new book, “What About Men?” Moran turns her eye to what she sees as the limited and limiting discussions around modern masculinity. It’s a book she felt duty-bound to write. “All the women that I know on similar platforms,” Moran says, speaking about fellow writers, “we’re out there mentoring young girls and signing petitions and looking after the younglings. The men of my generation with the same platforms have not done that. They are not having a conversation about young men. So given that none of them have written a book that addresses this, muggins here is going to do it.”
There’s a lot of generalizing in your book when it comes to men: They’re obsessed with band T-shirts and emotionally inarticulate and constantly talking about their balls. Is it possible that relying so heavily on those kinds of jokey stereotypes and clichés risks undercutting the deeper points you’re trying to make about the need to open up possibilities for how we think and talk about masculinity? I’m a mainstream writer. If I’m going to start talking about a difficult idea, I want to approach it in the most successful way possible. You need to start with a generalization that is going to get people to go either, “Yes, I recognize myself in that,” or, “No, I don’t agree.” Maybe a lot of people are going, “Men are emotionally literate, they can talk to each other,” but I sat down to watch “The Bear,” which has been lauded everywhere, and it’s about men who can’t talk about their emotions. I see that as a far more clichéd depiction than anything that I’ve done in this book.
Part of the framing of your book is that there’s not enough discussion about young men’s struggling to adapt to changing ideas about masculinity. I feel as if that’s a big topic of conversation these days. So what is the fresh thinking that you’re bringing to it? Feminism has a stated objective, which is the political, social, sexual and economic equality of women. With men, there isn’t an objective or an aim. Because there isn’t, what I have observed is that the stuff that is getting the most currency is on the conservative side. Men going: “Our lives have gotten materially worse since women started asking for equality. We need to reset the clock. We need to have power over women again.” We are talking about the problems of women and girls at a much higher level than we are about boys and men. We need to identify the problems and work out what we want the future to look like for men in a way that women have already done for themselves.
You used to write a lot of celebrity profiles. Can you tell me a good anecdote about a famous person that you’ve never told before? The New York Times would never publish it. Absolutely filthy.
Try me. [Moran tells an epically filthy story about a British one-hit wonder from the 1990s.] You’re not printing that, are you?
How do you think the public discussion of feminism has changed since “How to Be a Woman”? I think the younger generation of feminists are even more open-minded and openhearted and sincere in what they do. But the downside is that a lot of the humor and the lightheartedness and the ability to ask a question about an idea has gone. The thing that I observe in younger women and activists is that they’re scared of going online and using the wrong word or asking the wrong question. As a result, we’re not having the free flow of ideas and questions that makes a movement optimal. We appear to have reinvented religion to a certain extent: the idea that there is a sentient thing watching you and that if you do something wrong, it will punish you. God is very much there in social media. I feel that having been born in an era before social media, I grew up godless, and it made me a lot freer than my daughters’ generation.
What’s an idea that people are afraid to talk about more openly? Trans issues. In the U.K., you are seen to be on one of two sides. It’s the idea that you could be a centrist and talk about it in a relaxed, humorous, humane way that didn’t involve two groups of adults tearing each other to pieces on the internet.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity from two conversations.
David Marchese is a staff writer for the magazine and the columnist for Talk. He recently interviewed Alok Vaid-Menon about transgender ordinariness, Joyce Carol Oates about immortality and Robert Downey Jr. about life after Marvel.
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