I always forget how much I enjoy Bukowski's writing, and then I'll pick up another of his works, start reading, and am flabbergasted by how long I let...moreI always forget how much I enjoy Bukowski's writing, and then I'll pick up another of his works, start reading, and am flabbergasted by how long I let it sit untouched on the shelf. Women was no exception, and despite my disbelief at having ignored the novel for so long, I loved it.
Then again, I'm not easily offended nor do I suffer from an overload of ultra-sensitive feminist bullshit. Literature is a product of the world we live in, and that world is not always pretty.
Perhaps as a woman I should have been offended to the point I got the vapors and was forced to toss the book aside. But as a reader who appreciates authenticity, acknowledgement of reality, and unyielding grit in a book, I was engaged and ultimately satisfied. It's true, Bukowski's presentation of women is (a lot) less than politically correct, but the portrait is a genuine representation of an equally less than stellar segment of the male population. He doesn't hold anything back, the writing is all in, balls out, totally unapologetic. No flinching.
Yes, the author was likely a jerk-off. So was Hemingway. Get over it.
The reader isn't expected to view any of this as glamorous. Women portrays life as a never-ending cycle of dirt, shit, fuck-ups, and the occasional piece of good luck. Alcoholism is presented as the living hell it is, and more than one passage nails the down and out desperation of gambling. Some sections of the novel are disgusting while others are profound. None of the relationships are illustrated as anything other than dysfunctional, destructive messes, a fact that Bukowski repeatedly states in these same pages. (I find this point of view a far better alternative to a certain series aimed at impressionable teenage girls that presents obsession, stalking, and submission to the point of zombie-hood as a "healthy" relationship. The fact that the male "love" interest is a sparkly vampire simply adds insult to freakin' injury.)
And let's be honest here: there's no shortage of real life women who act exactly like the women in Bukowski's writing. The delusions, the irrational behavior, the freak outs and mind games, their own jacked up double standard, the sheer insanity...I've dealt with a Lydia before. It isn't pretty, not in books and certainly not in real life. Preach it, Bukowski.
Bukowski's writing is deceptively simple; it's also effective. The situations are repetitive but the character's emotional response is not, just pay attention to the gradual changes over time. His behavior doesn't change, but at least there's self-awareness at play. (Yet another element sorely lacking in the aforementioned series.) At the end of the day, love it or hate it you're still thinking about it, and that's a sign the author did his job and did it well.
Like I said earlier, I loved this. If you dislike generous use of the f-bomb, the c-word, and explicit sex, it would be best to pass on this one. If you fall into the militant feminist category, you're going to hate it with a passion.
But if you're open-minded, pick this up and give it a shot. Women isn't a hard or time-consuming read, so you've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain.(less)
Crap. Self-indulgent, narcissistic, unabashedly ignorant, poorly written crap. It's a shame that Chinese literature is being represented by such an at...moreCrap. Self-indulgent, narcissistic, unabashedly ignorant, poorly written crap. It's a shame that Chinese literature is being represented by such an atrocious wanna-be.(less)
Points granted for Millet's candor: jealousy, being on the nastier side of the emotional spectrum, is not something most people want to admit to or an...morePoints granted for Millet's candor: jealousy, being on the nastier side of the emotional spectrum, is not something most people want to admit to or analyze in regards to their own situation.
Points deducted for attitude: holy hell, this woman is pretentious! Look, lady, you're giving in depth descriptions of how you crawled around on the floor, sniveling and searching your significant other's private stuff in order to find more proof with which to enlarge your wounds. You freely admit that this practice continued for years. Considering these pathetic facts, try not to be so freakin' smug about it.
Further points deducted for display of selected self-awareness: Millet admits to crisis-inducing jealousy, she admits to impossible expectations of her lover being so intuitive as to read her mind and behave in certain ways, and she admits to behavior like searching his things for more evidence after he's already admitted to his actions, but when it comes to acknowledging her own hypocrisy, there's a distinct lack. (If you've read The Sexual Life of Catherine M. you already know what I'm talking about. Even in Jealousy she makes mention of her own transgressions, although she does so as if hers are acceptable while his are not.) Lip service is paid late in the book, but it's only that, you can tell she's not really acknowledging any double standard.
Overall it was nice to read about someone delving into the muck of jealousy. Unfortunately, Millet thinks she's much more clever than she actually is, the writing is pretentious to the point of being ridiculous, and it's probably safe to skip this one unless you really enjoyed her previous work.(less)
Diamond theory is definitely moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, her presentation of that theory sucks.
When presenting a lesser known theory...moreDiamond theory is definitely moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, her presentation of that theory sucks.
When presenting a lesser known theory that's just beginning to gain traction, presentation is key. This is not a new theory, despite what the author implies; I've encountered the fluid sexuality idea several times in other reading, although never in such detail. Diamond is moving it forward, not nearly as much as she seems to think she is in the book, but she's got a fairly solid start. I don't mind that this is a heavy, academic read; considering the analysis, that style fits the subject.
What doesn't fit are the opinions of the author, conjecture that takes large leaps away from the given evidence. I read studies like this in order to gain enough information to develop my own opinion; I don't care about or want the writer's. There's a fairly clear bias throughout Sexual Fluidity which made me uneasy: her own long term study has shaky elements, and when citing the work of other psychologists, she has a tendency to present only the details for the side supporting her theory, with very little mention made of other findings. At times it felt as if Diamond was pulling a slight of hand trick.
Beyond that she undermines a great theory with tedious, repetitive writing that circles back on itself like a snake eating its own tail. An awful lot of the material felt like it was padding for the book, reworded and represented as a new point in her repertoire. Fail.
I found all the issues with Sexual Fluidity very frustrating because, as I said before, I think Diamond is moving the study of sexuality in the right direction. There's definitely something going on within this theory, a core somewhere that just has to be covered. This could have been a fantastic introduction, it could have been so good, and maybe that's why I'm so disappointed with it.(less)