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Old 05-02-2013, 08:08 AM   #16
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Thanks for the rec, Tara.

If it were my list, I'd include a number of books, such as Nightwood, by Djuna Barnes, The Waves, by Virginia Woolf, At the Bottom of the River, by Jamaica Kincaid, Two Serious Ladies, by Jane Bowles, The Laugh of the Medusa, by Hélène Cixious, Childhood, by Nathalie Sarraute, Blue Eyes, Black Hair, by Marguerite Duras, Black Sun, by Julia Kristeva, The Hour of the Star, by Clarice Lispector, O Taste and See, by Denise Levertov, Three Lives, by Gertrude Stein, Descending Figure, by Louise Gluck, The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter, The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield, Black Tickets, by Jayne Anne Phillips, A Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich, Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula, by Kathy Acker, A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far, by Adrienne Rich, Sula, by Toni Morrison -- and I'll stop there, as additional names might trigger a political discussion which has no place on the lightside of these forums.


Personally, I'm surprised no one has mentioned some of the more interesting books on the list, specif. The Bloody Chamber (a book which influenced me directly in style and method, and was the basis for Neil Jordan's fun film, The Company of Wolves); The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton (probably the most perfect book on the list, complete with a valuable overview of politics and power in NYC); the stories of Colette, if only for their lightness, attractiveness, wit and clarity; The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (if for no other reason than its having influenced generations -- I myself used to listen to recordings of Plath reading her poems long before such recordings were easy to attain); The Second Sex (for obvious reasons); The Flame Throwers, by Rachel Kushner; Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill (which an ex of mine loved so much she promptly set up an interview with the author for the Village Voice, and which contains a far more accurate -- and funny -- account of an S&M relationship than anything ever written by E. L. James); and Kindred, by Octavia Butler (I thought we had tons of SF fans here on MR, and Butler was an SF pioneer!).

I can't comment on Dora: A Headcase because the author's in my circles, but it looks tremendous, and I shouldn't comment on Acker (even though she's gone) because I named one of her books, but there's a point at which excellence as well as bias should be acknowledged.

The one entry I don't agree with is the book by Eileen Myles, though half of New York, San Francisco and LA would disagree with my disagreement.

"Love is when you wake up as a cannibal, or else awaken destined for devouring.

"Agony: the spoken word exploded, blown to bits by suffering and anger, demolishing discourse. This is how she has always been heard before, ever since the time when masculine society began to push her offstage, expelling her, plundering her. Ever since Medea, ever since Electra."

"You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her, and she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing."

-- Hélène Cixous
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Old 05-02-2013, 08:33 AM   #17
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I've read only a couple of this list - Atwood and Le Guin. Loved both of them.

I never thought of Left Hand of Darkness as a book about women though. I thought it was more about gender identity and challenging perceptions of sexuality and relationships. But I guess if you're desperate to get Ursula Le Guin on the list, why not? As far as I'm concerned it is a "must read".
(EDIT: Just noticed it's in Wikipedia under feminist sci-fi so what do I know?)


Some of the others I'd like to get around to reading some day: Octavia Butler, Simone De Beauvoir, Sylvia Plath and Edith Wharton (loved Ethan Frome).

But I have to say, I don't know anything about the rest of them.

I was expecting to find The Female Man on there by Joanna Russ. I haven't read it so I can't vouch for its quality, but it's a novel I've often heard mentioned in the context of feminist novels.

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Old 05-02-2013, 09:48 AM   #18
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Since I'm a woman I don't have to read them, right?
I can just go on living my life already fully aware what it's like being a woman.

Lately I've been reading some interesting, very up to date books and articles about what's it like being a young(ish) woman right now, right here in this country (Sweden) and quite frankly I'd prefer if men read those instead. Ideally, of course they can do both, but I don't expect too many to do that!
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Old 05-02-2013, 10:18 AM   #19
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I've read only a couple of this list - Atwood and Le Guin. Loved both of them. I never thought of Left Hand of Darkness as a book about women though. I thought it was more about gender identity and challenging perceptions of sexuality and relationships. But I guess if you're desperate to get Ursula Le Guin on the list, why not?
I would argue that to create and explore metaphors of gender identity is to discuss the idea of women, in the sense that any gender role which is imposed -- mapped out for someone who might not even desire it -- is arbitrary, yet, in a given society, is seen as so ineradicably and ineffably true that it sears and stars the object to the point of reactive adaptation. Merely to contemplate that issue from different sides -- the enforcer and the enforced upon -- is to consider the idea of being a woman in an overly prescriptive society.

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I was expecting to find The Female Man on there by Joanna Russ. I haven't read it so I can't vouch for its quality, but it's a novel I've often heard mentioned in the context of feminist novels.
I actually got to meet Joanna Russ a few times and recall The Female Man quite fondly. But the books on my personal list are there primarily because of the level of the writing as well as the clarity of the insight of the writer. I don't know that The Female Man, as important as it was, bears scrutiny as well as the other books I've mentioned. In The Bloody Chamber, for example, Angela Carter crafts prose so rich she seems to alternate between jeweler and chocolatier. Sometimes she's both at once.

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Old 05-02-2013, 10:24 AM   #20
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Lately I've been reading some interesting, very up to date books and articles about what's it like being a young(ish) woman right now, right here in this country (Sweden) and quite frankly I'd prefer if men read those instead. Ideally, of course they can do both, but I don't expect too many to do that!
When you say that men "can do both," what's the second thing they can do if the first is reading about what it's like to be a younger woman -- read about older women, too, or continue to be men while reading?
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Old 05-02-2013, 10:50 AM   #21
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When you say that men "can do both," what's the second thing they can do if the first is reading about what it's like to be a younger woman -- read about older women, too, or continue to be men while reading?
LOL! I meant that they can BOTH read books from the "21 books..." list (that doesn't have anything from my country in it) and more current and local material.
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Old 05-02-2013, 11:06 AM   #22
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I would argue that to create and explore metaphors of gender identity is to discuss the idea of women, in the sense that any gender role which is imposed -- mapped out for someone who might not even desire it -- is arbitrary, yet, in a given society, is seen as so ineradicably and ineffably true that it sears and stars the object to the point of reactive adaptation. Merely to contemplate that issue from different sides -- the enforcer and the enforced upon -- is to consider the idea of being a woman in an overly prescriptive society.
But not to consider the idea of being a man?
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Old 05-02-2013, 12:25 PM   #23
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Since I happen to admire Ursula K. LeGuin, I respectfully disagree.
I like Ursula K LeGuin usually.

"Left Hand" rings false! :like bell with casting flaw!: very forced, distorted!

My perception!
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Old 05-03-2013, 12:03 PM   #24
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But not to consider the idea of being a man?
Yes, in the individual sense, perhaps; collectively, less so, because men are normative in our culture. Often, women are expected to conform in ways which run so deep and prove so restrictive that we have to squint to see the shapes into which they're expected to contort themselves.

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Old 05-06-2013, 04:25 AM   #25
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Yes, in the individual sense, perhaps; collectively, less so, because men are normative in our culture. Often, women are expected to conform in ways which run so deep and prove so restrictive that we have to squint to see the shapes into which they're expected to contort themselves.
I guess it depends from what perspective you look at. I don't want to make myself sound like an anti-feminist, but my reaction was quite different. I was much more focused on the masculine roles in this and the involuntary disgust that the outsider had with a "man" performing particular gender roles - especially sexual roles. Of course, it's the flip side of the same coin really. But I could extrapolate this to be talking about perceptions of masculinity vs femininity and even how that can impact perceptions of same sex relationships. In some ways I think the expectation for men to be masculine can be even more restrictive than the expectation for a woman to be feminine.

In any case, this is what I took from my reading and one of the reasons the book resonated so strongly with me.
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Old 05-07-2013, 10:44 AM   #26
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I could extrapolate this to be talking about perceptions of masculinity vs femininity and even how that can impact perceptions of same sex relationships. In some ways I think the expectation for men to be masculine can be even more restrictive than the expectation for a woman to be feminine. In any case, this is what I took from my reading and one of the reasons the book resonated so strongly with me.
"I think the expectation for men to be masculine can be even more restrictive than the expectation for a woman to be feminine."

I can see your point but disagree respectfully on the particulars.

I'd agree with you wholeheartedly if you put it this way: "I think the expectation for men to be masculine can be almost as restrictive in the case of straight men and as restrictive -- sometimes even tragically -- in the case of gay and transgendered men."

* * * *

I'm also thankful for your civility in discussing this with me. I've had similar conversations in which the other party said things like, "Stop trying to score points with women" and "stop white-knighting."

One makes this argument because it rings true and not to score points with imaginary listeners. One either believes in feminism or one doesn't, and I've believed in it for a lifetime.

Besides which, a lot of women don't consider themselves feminists, so they're hardly inclined to see me as a white knight, and those who do certainly don't need me to stick up for them.

These are thoughts I'd share with any friend who asked.

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Old 05-07-2013, 11:25 AM   #27
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I'm not sure what particulars we're really disagreeing on there.

Anyway - in the end, the important thing is that it's a marvellous book. And I'm about as happy to look at it as a work of feminist literature as I am to look at it as an exploration of masculinity. One just meant more to me at the time than the other.

I haven't decided if it's my favourite of her novels, but she is a pretty big inspiration to me.
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