Interview with Robert Bly

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EU: You say SIBLING SOCIETY took three years to write and ten years out of your life. Why was it so difficult to write this book?

RB: This book is about the culture as a whole, about how the sibling society affects the lives of women as well as men and what's happening to children, for example, in early schools, what effect television has had on their brains, what the fatherless family means. These are sociological matters. Sociological prose is generally written without images in an exact form for an academic audience. So the problem became, How to write about these matters without using sociological jargon? How to write about facts like the decline of knowledge, while continuing to use images and poems and stories? I think that's why the book was difficult for me.

I would say, too, I began the book in a rather lighthearted way but by the time I had been writing for about a year and a half, I got a real ulcer. A Native American woman said to me, 'Well, the material you are writing about is very grievous, and you brought it down into your stomach, which was proper.' Twenty years ago, I would have brought it down into my head. I wouldn't have gotten an ulcer at all.

So then I had a second problem--what to do with all the grief I felt having studied this material. I am still involved in that.

EU: Your earlier work IRON JOHN drew a great deal of fire from a variety of critics. Do you expect this book to be as controversial as IRON JOHN?

RB: There are a number of faults with Iron John that people were right to point out. It wasn't written as a bible for the men's movement. It was just an expansion of a fairy story, and I didn't take into account a whole lot of things that I would have if I had thought it would be read that way.

The Sibling Society presents five hearth or fairy tales. People tend to take stories literally these days, so there may be some trouble there. The book may also offend people who want to feel that we are doing pretty well. I use the phrase 'sibling society' to suggest a culture fundamentally without fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, or ancestors. The thinking is horizontal. People who love horizontal thinking will not like the book. The sibling society is the flattening out of the previously democratic society. All of those on the left, as I am, have always vastly preferred the democratic society over the hierarchical society and still do, but the democratic culture doesn't exist without highly informed citizens capable of thinking well, and if you have schools in which 40 percent of the people coming out of them cannot make change for a dollar, you don't have a democracy. You have a sibling society.

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