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writing of readerly reviews of writings

Tag: ::reread::

Review: “Moments of Desire: Sex and Sensuality by Australian Feminist Writers”, edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker

hawthorne, pausacker (ed.) moments of desireI was delighted to relocate this on DC’s bookshelf, possibly hers, possibly mine, but gifted to me now. I’d be on the look-out for some months, wanting to track down Hawthorne’s poem ‘Erotica Alphabetica’ that I’d read and remembered as an undergraduate: it happily stood the test of time. I also enjoyed Rosemary Jones’ prose-poem ‘The Woman in the Moon’ (source of the citation below). Unfortunately, that was about it. I found almost none of the pieces erotic, which is always a risk of “erotic” writing, but worse, I found that they nearly all were too damned cerebral, thinking too damned much, working too damned hard to break down the stereotypes of what constituted the erotic. (Which, fair enough, has been feminism’s modus operandi – making the status quo uncomfortable with itself.) Worse, even, most pieces weren’t actually terribly good, and I eventually got too bored/irritated to keep reading. I will keep it for the sake of those two pieces, however, and it makes a reasonable addition to the feminist / lesbian / women’s / writerly history section of the Keeper Shelf.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf as a gift
Time and manner of reading:
Kaleidoscopic bed reads with a final train frustration
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “She was dream / she was silver / she was tough” (p.66)
Reminds me of/that: Erotica is *terribly* subjective
Who I’d recommend it to:
Historically feministly curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac

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Review: Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”

sylvia plath the bell jarAn out-of-curiosity reread: Plath’s 1950s’ heroine Esther Greenwood, poor college girl trying to make good in the big city, progressively suffocates in the bell jar of her “mental health issue” (as we like to call it these days). Pretty thoroughly autobiographical, from what I understand, and a fairly comprehensive indictment of the limitations that constituted 1950s bourgeois US womanhood, it lacks the eloquent punch of Plath’s poetry – as brutal as that is – but is still informative as an insider’s view on madness. Presumably more interesting if you’re a somewhat-suicidal post-adolescent.

PS Coincidentally, I saw that the Melbourne Writers Festival had a 50th-anniversary retrospective type event on The Bell Jar, the day after I read this. I would have been curious to learn if the speakers thought this novel would really have lasted 50 years had it not been written by a mentally ill author who did, in fact, top herself in the year the book was published. I guess that’s the core reason I’m reading it — Plath’s poetry alone may not have lasted, as powerful as it is, and may not have made her famous, but a suicidal Plath’s poetry is a headliner.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Bed and armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Elizabeth Jolley’s The Well
Who I’d recommend it to:
Literary-historical readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass

Review: Sylvia Brownrigg’s “Pages for You: A Novel”

sylvia brownrigg pages for youA luscious literary lady-lovers’ literary love affair. Lovely and lived in. Loved it.

Where it came from: Women’s Library booksales shelf
Time and manner of reading:
Devoted reads at the beach and the writers’ festival
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: [There’s a whole book of them, you’ll have to pick your own]
Reminds me of/that: Life
Who I’d recommend it to:
Literary lady-lovers, of course
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Stella Miles Franklin by Jill Roe; Life on Earth by David Attenborough

Review: Annamarie Jagose’s “In Translation”

annamarie jagose in translationI was pretty sure this was a reread, but there was no way I’d resist a novel that involved both dykes and translation. The novel tells, sort of, of New Zealander Helena, her liaison with remote translator Navaz and relationship with Navaz’s partner Lillian, and her dalliance with Japanese Professor Mody. Sort of. It’s also about translation, and living other people’s lives, and has a good dose of gender-queer sexuality finagling. Written in a stately but fine style, it’s not a book you can devour – but then, you want time to appreciate the fine phrasing. Recommended.

Where it came from: The Women’s Library bookshop
Time and manner of reading:
Assorted train, bed, armchair, beanbag reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: Too many to choose from
Who I’d recommend it to:
Wordly (sic) readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Review: Aritha van Herk’s “Judith”

aritha van herk judithIt turns out that this was actually my book, bought and studied as an undergrad, which KJM has kept on her shelf all these years (along with my childhood copies of Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, et al) – how sweet! I’d remembered that I’d loved van Herk’s The Tent Peg when young(er) and (more) impressionable, and this is quite a good novel for what it is: late 1970s, smart young woman obsessed by dead dad and ex-bf-boss heads back to Central Alberta to raise pigs. As with an earlier read, and many others over the years, it’s an example of the feminism of women focussed on their men; the heroine of course gets laid by the best man around at the end of the novel. But it’s not a bad book, and Judith makes quite a fine Sow Witch.

Where it came from: KJM’s bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Assorted bed and bus reads, culminating in a suburban-walk finale
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Historically interested feminists
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper; Belonging by bell hooks; Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray

Review: Jeanette Winterson’s “Lighthousekeeping”

jeanette winterson lighthousekeepingIt’s as I’d feared. I’ve been trialling Winterson again after many years of sneering, and I’m afraid this is one of her novels that left me less than impressed. Well written and fluid, but ultimately shallow and unremarkable – gosh, it’s all about love. Every line is a charming aphorism, the whole scaffolded on whimsical epigrams, but essentially unmemorable. I know it’s demanding to ask for a novel to have something to say, but I will continue to be unreasonable.

Where it came from: JI’s bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
A beddy-bye sampler and a morning get-it-bloody-out-of-the-way devour
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Substance is all
Who I’d recommend it to:
Those seeking some fluff by someone famous
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Review: Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”

virginia woolf to the lighthouseI have a lighthouse-related Winterson on the bedside table waiting to be read, and I suspected that Winterson’s Woolf fetish may make this one required reading. I also knew it would probably be a reread, but it turns out to be a rereread. The Ramseys – tin-pot egotist Mr, controlling family goddess Mrs – consider taking their children and assorted houseguests to visit the Lighthouse (yes, it’s capitalised throughout). What are the thoughts and feelings of each of them during that fateful September day and its aftermath a decade later? Skilled, fluid, artful, insightful. Classic Woolf, I venture to say.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
A wee-smas insomnia read and a lie-in wrap-up
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: A Katherine Mansfield short story? But then, perhaps just of itself, and I’ve blurred books read at a similar time
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readerly readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust