This is a beautiful little book, gorgeously illustrated by the author's brother.
The opening pages, where Goblin Men call out to the women about theirThis is a beautiful little book, gorgeously illustrated by the author's brother.
The opening pages, where Goblin Men call out to the women about their market wares, reads a bit like something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
Rare pears and greengages, Damsons and bilberries, Taste them and try: Currants and gooseberries, Bright-fire-like barberries, Figs to fill your mouth, Citrons from the South, Sweet to tongue and sound to eye; Come buy, come buy.
Whimsical, rhyming and vaguely ominous. Twin sisters hear their call; one quickly falls prey to their voice while the other resists. After Laura becomes despondent when she can no longer "[suck] until her lips are sore" (the Goblin Men's calls do not fall upon her ears any longer), Lizzie takes it upon herself to approach them and get "the antidote" for her sister's woes. By taking their abuse of fruit upon her person, but refusing steadfastly to ingest it, she is able to bring it home with her and Laura can partake once more in an uncomfortably erotic recitation:
She clung about her sister, Kissed and kissed and kissed her: Tears once again Refreshed her shrunken eyes, Dropping like rain After long sultry drouth; Shaking with aguish fear and pain, She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.
It quickly becomes a heavy-handed metaphor for Victorian morality; the "fallen" one with the saintly pious sister. Joyce Carol Oates says in the afterword that this lesson is shown "perhaps too clearly for contemporary tastes", which I can certainly agree with. Still, there are many possibilities that can be drawn from the simplistic, lyrical tone. Are the Goblin Men representative of all men who tempt women from their chastity? Or are they just a representation of sexual desire that all Righteous Women, "full of wise upbraidings" should resist? One thing is made clear: men are not to be trusted....more
Like many Americans, I read The Yellow Wallpaper in high school, but I am unfamiliar with the overall body of Gilman's work. Here I am, chan4.5 stars.
Like many Americans, I read The Yellow Wallpaper in high school, but I am unfamiliar with the overall body of Gilman's work. Here I am, changing that. Mini-reviews because short stories.
the yellow wallpaper The title story has been minutely scrutinized by scads of academics more talented than I could ever hope to be, so I won't be saying anything new here. Just my Feels, bro. As a teenager, this story shook me. I am angry on her behalf, angry like I was for Hester Prynne. That year of English classes was a wrathful one to my budding feminist sensibilities.
"John is a physician, and perhaps ... perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster."
There is nothing about her husband John, spoken about with tired gratefulness at his care, that makes me believe he is not truly responsible for the further deterioration of her condition. Perhaps he is not the sole cause (PPD seems a likely culprit), but he's no goddamn support either. John controls every decision in her life ("... hardly lets me stir without special direction") and subtly gaslights her whenever she questions him about the room or visiting relatives. His intentions maybe have been altruistic, but I hate him all the same. My modern sensibilities are incredibly offended
if i were a man Suddenly, the very picture of a "true woman" becomes a man; her husband, to be specific.
"These pockets came as a revelation. Of course she had known they were there, had counted them, made fun of them, mended them, even envied them; but shr never had dreamed of how it felt to have pockets."
This is still something the women's fashion industry struggles with over a hundred years later.
This story draws to a close with everyday men talking about women amongst themselves in a very uncomplimentary manner. Not so much has changed much there, either. Mollie-as-Gerald tries to convince his man-friends that "women are pretty much people ", though we never see their reactions to her monologue about women's ridiculous fashion & their predilection for wealthy men.
turned For all that this includes a young girl who was taken advantage of by her employer, I loved it? The idea that the wronged wife in a cheating marriage can find compassion for the other woman is fairly unusual in current media and surely wasn't common in the early 20th century either. Women working together against the perfidy of men is My Jam.
the cottagette "Can you give up cooking for me and focus on your art, which is beautiful?" This seems like one of those self-indulgent fix-it fics for hetero romances.
an honest woman ("I've got a high opinion of good women," he answered with finality. "As to bad ones, the less said the better!" and he puffed his strong cigar, looking darkly experienced.)
It's rare that I so immediately wish for a character's death, but here we are, less than two pages in.
The titular honest (hard-working, intelligent, full of integrity) woman, Mary, gives her deadbeat husband the best smackdown as he threatens to expose her when she refuses to legally marry him. "They know how I have lived since. If you try to blacken my reputation here, I think you will find the climate of Mexico more congenial." With that, she just leaves the room like a goddamn champion.
making a change Women working to their strengths, helping each other. Good shit - and it seems very autobiographical. Gilman ceded custody of her own child to her ex-husband and his new wife, finding motherhood more of a burden to her mental health than a blessing in her life.
mr peebles' heart Not the most poignant of tales. A man sacrifices living for duty to his family and at the urging of his concerned sister-in-law, Eat Pray Loves it up and comes back a changed man.
the widow's might Hell yes, unburden yourself from society's shackles. Your terrible husband is dead - go and be free!
At the end of this book are selections from some of Gilman's books: Herland, Women and Economics and The Man-Made World. She is cis-centric in her views, which is disappointing but not surprising given the time period. However, Gilman's barely concealed disdain for the overwhelming "masculinity" and male-dominated culture has cleared my skin and restored my crops.
"That we have progressed thus far, that we are now moving forward so rapidly, is in spite of and not because of our androcentric culture."...more
This is a novel of three parts - the first is from the point of view of The Vegetarian's husband, the second her brother-in-law and and finally, her sThis is a novel of three parts - the first is from the point of view of The Vegetarian's husband, the second her brother-in-law and and finally, her sister. In the beginning we see Yeong-hye, our titular character, has had an unsettling dream and decides to become a vegetarian from that day forward. It is the beginning of the end for her as everything crumbles - her marriage, her relationship with her parents and even who she is as a person, if we ever knew that to begin with.
We're supposed to be unnerved by her behavior as described by her Mr. Cheong, her spouse - and I am, but it's not accompanied by the expected sympathy for the confused and frightened spouse. He's kind of a dick. Scratch that, (view spoiler)[he's a garbage human and a marital rapist. He then gets upset that her expression across the breakfast table "made it seem as though she were a woman of bitter experience, who had suffered many hardships". No shit, fuckwad, you raped her multiple times. (hide spoiler)]
DUN DUN, TWO YEARS LATER.
Yeong-hye's unnamed brother-in-law has an odd sexual fixation with Mongolian marks. He feels the same about his wife as Mr. Cheong does Yeong-hye, without any unusual behavior to "justify" it. What I am getting from this book is that men are never satisfied with what women give them, even if it is their very best. ("She's a good woman," he thought. "The kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive.")
Unnamed brother-in-law ALSO makes his wife cry when they have sex. This is a very uncomfortable theme. He fetishizes Yeong-hye's mental illness, enraptured by her lack of affect & participation in the waking world. He takes advantage of this in the most disgusting of ways. Basically the only male character in this story who isn't entirely repulsive is Ji-woo, who is five.
Lastly, we meet In-hye, after she leaves her husband due to the events in his chapter. Her section is unfocused and confused, almost as if the mental disconnect her sister is experiencing is a contagion she also contracted. I am still unsure about whether or not In-hye's choice to "abandon" her son Ji-woo means that she is temporarily leaving him in someone else's care for the first time since her husband slunk off or if she means in a permanent sense, that she and Yeong-hye are off together, to dream or die or become trees. It is not the most concrete of endings, which is fitting to the somewhat otherworldly tone her chapter takes as she becomes more and more involved in Yeong-hye's care.
Favorite lines: "It seemed enough for [Yeong-hye] to just deal with whatever it was that came her way, calmly and without fuss. Or perhaps it was simply that things were happening inside her, terrible things, which no one else could even guess at, and thus it was impossible for her to engage with everyday life at the same time."
Notes on translation: I want to get this in the original Korean and try my hand at reading it. It sounds a lot more interesting than painstakingly translating newspaper articles or children's books.
- The descriptors and pronouns are more confusing in English than they presumably would be in Korean. Mr. Cheong references his brother-in-law several times, but it's not always clear if he means his wife's brother (Yeong-ho) or his wife's sister's husband (unnamed), who would both hold this title.
- In-hye's unnamed husband calling her "Ji-woo's mom" ... is this supposed to be a commentary on how he sees her or just a literal translation of the Korean? Unclear....more
I do not believe I have enough background in poetry to adequately rate this collection, unfamiliar as I am in the history and of how3.5 stars, truly.
I do not believe I have enough background in poetry to adequately rate this collection, unfamiliar as I am in the history and of how it is created. I'm gonna do it anyway.
Research into this author has told me that he was one of the most important contemporary poets in the post-1989 Eastern European world, where much of his focus was on grief, memory and trauma. It's why I chose this collection to fulfill what I thought would be the most difficult challenge of 2017: "Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love."
The choppy breakdown of the lines is jarring, but once you get a rhythm going in your head they have their own flow. I suppose this is probably a concept habitual poetry readers just know, but for me it made for a difficult start. Borbély seems to reference other authors (Kafka, Walter Benjamin, etc.) as well as classical mythology quite often, which turned this more into an academic exercise rather than something that was strictly reading for pleasure. Still, I never turn down learning new things and now I am very Hip to history of the flâneur; that is, to stroll and observe as a modern urban spectator.
This is a ghostly, and occasionally ghastly, work that is interspersed with Letters I-XIII that speak searchingly of one penpal desperate to meet up with the his friend, to create a greater intimacy between them. It becomes obvious by Letter IX that she is entirely uninterested:
"She would never marry anyone else, she said. She would never throw away my letters. She would not ask for her photographs back. She was willing to correspond with me, but wouldn't mind if she didn't have to any more."
Ouch, dude. Further terrible things happen to this letter writer, as seems to be a theme of this work; it is stuffed to the brim with ennui and harsh emotional Feelings with a capital F. Upon reading the translation notes, I find it unsurprising that the Letter cycle is based directly of Franz Kafka's missives to his on-again, off-again fiancee, Felice Bauer. The tone of emotional suffocation was there.
Some of my favorite pieces from this collection, in no particular order and for no reason that I can put into words:
"Fragment I" Yes, I could express it simply by saying that our conversation left in me a vacant space. Since then, every day contains this space.
"Schöneweide" [iii] He was a mangy, lost soul. I pitied him. And I thought of my relatives, the ones whom I could never meet. Who' hovered for a while above the German-Polish lowlands, as dust and ashes. Perhaps that is why I wanted to look, simply to observe, for months on end, what the sky was like over Berlin.
"Letter IV" And after I got your address, I was still unsure, was it the right one? For there is nothing sadder than sending a letter to an uncertain address. For that is no longer a letter, but instead a sigh.
My favorite in its entirety is "Naturhistorisches Museum", one of the longer pieces in Berlin-Hamlet. It's an odd blend of skepticism of science, of faith and humanity.
"In the Natural History Museum, from ten until six, the past is an open book. The domain of minerals and stones is seemingly without motion. In a series of rooms, animals stuffed and preserved in compliance with the inferred order of creation. Desiccated bodies, dehydrated plumes,
down, hides. Glass eyes, lifelike. Movement slowed down to infinity, fixed but dead creations. Although their legs are in the air, heads daintily averted. If seen from the front, the half-profile is preferred. Representatives of the great species, blind objects
in the darkness. But after closing time, life doesn't stop. In the ancient oak casements of the vitrines, tiny parasites continue their labour with that indifferent monotonous background noise, as the narrator of a nature film speaks. Microscopic fungi,
various life-forms of simple constitution battle for survival. Then the fine tension of the dramatic tremulo penetrating the mechanical voice: And the viruses in the air. When, in the year sixteen hundred and seventy-nine, after the last occurrence of the Black Death, a memorial
was erected to the devastation, new explanations were sought. In addition to belief in providence, there was faith in mathematics, then statistics. When belief was thrust aside, the mythology of freedom replaced the cult of the death. The result was the rapturous
veneration of life, then of course wars, revolutions. But the watchword of bliss displaced all else. In time evolution became the modern metaphor of death. And all the while humanity still knew nothing of bacteria.
In front of the display of the great carnivores a quiet child next to his mother steps back and takes her hand. And points to one of the creatures: it looks like daddy. And truly, one could arrange the material according to the sequence of likenesses. Through the associative and metaphorical correlations
in a language that knows no history. On the glass of vitrines the bacteria flourish, but then comes the great cleansing, fine de capo. A meteor striking the earth, or a straight of virus now dormant in the Amazon. Supposedly the beginning of life was an infection that arrived on a meteorite."...more