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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (May 1, 1986)
. . . a lot of people share homophobia as a
cultural attitude. “Gay people are just people
you can be rude about.”
| Conversation with
! Jane Rule
by Ju lie
Jane Rule and Donna Dietch met six years
ago. Dietch approached Rule after reading
:j:j The Desert o f the Heart, showed Rule some
of her films, and proposed making a movie of
£: The Desert o f the Heart. The two hit it off
:j:j immediately, according to Rule. Several large
:£ studios had offered to buy the rights of the
novel from Rule, but she had reservations. “I
just wasn’t willing to see them (the major
*: studios) make the film," said Rule. After meet-
ing Dietch, Rule trusted that Dietch would
:& make a movie that would be in the spirit of
and in sy mpathy with the novel. As Rule says
of Dietch, "She has performed a miracle.”
The Desert o f the Heart, her first novel, was
Just O ut, M ay 1986
Just Out: How do your close family ties
and relationships in general, affect your
Jane Rule: My father is one of those people
who thinks as a parent he should be able to
teach anything to his children that they would
want to know, so he tried to teach me to write
a short story. He sent it off and it was rejected.
I mean, he wrote the story to show me how it
was done — and from then on he has left me
alone in that department, for which I am
One of the things about relationships is it's
not static and you have to know that relation
ship, like politics, is really housekeeping. I f
you don't clean the floor every day it gets
dirty. If you don't work at being connected
and understanding each other silences fall,
misunderstandings build up, insecurities turn
into lies. When relationships are working,
whether they’re between parents and children,
lovers or friends, it’s because people are
working at them.
I knew a woman some years ago who said
‘I don’t work at friendship,' as if friendship was
one of those voluntary things — she doesn’t
have any friends left
JO : You teach writing at the University of
British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. You also
work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corpo
ration as a radio program evaluator. How
does your writing fit in with the other work you
JR: 1 consider writing one of my jobs. For a
long time I tried to work part time and write
part time. Tojuggle six balls as so many of us try
to do when we’re getting started. What I did,
in the middle period of my life, was try to take
a full time teaching job for one or two years
and not write, and then have time off
when I could concentrate on writing. That, for
novel writing, was a lot better.
I mostly teach. And I teach writing, so I
mostly listen, and then I have long conversa
tions with my students. And of course when
people are writing — operating pretty close to
what matters to them — I begin to hear pat
terns of concern. Teaching is a wonderful
way to share insight with other people who
are concerned with the same things I am.
I sell stories to the CBC. It’s an important
part of my information and attitude range
that I listen to the CBC a lot It’s one of the
ways I take the temperature of my country.
JO : The patterns of concern, could you
elaborate? Is homophobia such a concern,
and have you ever encountered judgmental
opposition because you are a lesbian writer?
JR; Oh sure, but you know, 1 really don’t
think that there’s much hostility that you ex
perience once you are really out because
people then get polite. I listened to much
more hostility when I was being circumspect
when I was a young teacher. And I would have
to be in rooms and listen to ugly jokes about
homosexuals and not say anything about it
Once I was out people stopped telling those
I think a lot of people share homophobia as
a cu ltu ral attitude, without really personally
thinking about it very much. "Gay people are
just people you can be rude ab ou t. . . ”
People feel a great deal of pain and guilt
and fear, and that can’t help but internalize
unless people have strong suport a real love
— a strong personality structure. I think there
isn’t any one of us who hasn’t gone through a
homophobic period ourselves, fearing we
have to face something people will be con
JO : You are very active, you swim daily and
are a lifeguard on the island where you live.
What are your feelings about gay health is
sues. particularly AIDS? How do we counter
the attitude that disease is the wrath of God?
JR: Some insurance companies that have
a deductible for accidents, if they designate it
as an act of God, like an earthquake, some
thing of that sort, then you don’t have to pay
the deductible, you get all your money. If that
is what we mean by act of God, I think there
should be not even any deductible for the
help we give anybody who is sick.
I think this is something in our own particu
lar minority that we need to understand better
than we do, that is, that the more guilty and
unself-accepting people are, the less well
they seem to take care of themselves. No
body up to this point has medical evidence
that AIDS is the result of many sexual con
tacts. They just don t know that All of us need
to take a look at the ways we aren’t good to
ourselves and our bodies.
I don’t have any moral problem with people
who want to live hard and die young, but I
hope that they are doing it with a sense of joy
and intensity, not a sense of eroding a self
they don’t like very much.
JO : Drug abuse and unemployment are
concerns in the (J.S. and Canada. What do
you think will remedy these problems?
JR: I don't think it’s a drug problem we
have. I think that we have a society that in
creasingly excludes its young. We set up an
employment circumstance where our largest
group of unemployed are young people. And
Canada is a much smaller country in
population, and I think people here perceive
problems as things that can be solved. I think
a lot more people in Canada feel much more
in touch with their government
JO : You write both fiction and nonfiction.
Naiad Press has published In lan d Passage, a
collection of essays you wrote. What has the
response been to them so far?
JR: Normally people are reluctant to pub
lish essays, because they don’t sell. This es
say book is outselling the short story collec
tion two to one. That’s in the States there. A
great many of the essays are addressed to a
JO : Have you been approached about
writing another story for film or TV?
. JR: Not lately, no.
completed in 1961, three years after Rule be
gan writing it The novel was published in the
G.S. four years later by World Publishing. This
New York company was the twenty-first
American publisher to consider The Desert
o f The Heart, although the novel had been
published earlier in England.
Ms. Rule resides in Canada with her long
time companion, Helen Zonthoff. At the time
she was gathering ideas for The Desert o f the
Heart, Rule’s parents lived in Reno, and Rule
visited them there while gathering material
for the novel. To get a feel for her characters
and the environment, Rule worked as a
changer at Harold's Club, traversed the
desert, and wandered in Nevada ghost towns.
She is the author of The Desert o f the Heart.
The Body Politic, A Hot-Eyed Moderate.
In lan d Peissage, and others.
Ms. Rule recently granted Just Out an
exclusive interview. Here are the highlights