I feel a little badly giving this book only two stars because it accomplished what it sought out to do, but I also feel there were several glaring omi...moreI feel a little badly giving this book only two stars because it accomplished what it sought out to do, but I also feel there were several glaring omissions in content that I can't seem to ignore. The author is clear in the beginning that she is seeking to provide a complete social history of lesbianism, beginning with ancient society and ending in the present day, but I was expecting at least some insight regarding the genetic research of same-sex predisposition. The author comes close to discussing this when revealing the study of hermaphrodites as it related to women loving women, but anything beyond that is ignored.
Sapphistries does a wonderful job in relaying the history of female masculinity and that of conventional butch-femme relationships in different cultures, but I can't help thinking the book ignores the depiction of lesbian relationships that don't necessarily fall into these categories. This may not be the author's fault as she is working with very limited material, especially when touching on eras in which women were scarcely able to provide written accounts of their personal lives. I may also be a little biased as someone who is considered a "lipstick lesbian" within the gay community. Still, it seemed the author is seduced by labels created by the very society that repressed (and still continues to repress) homosexuals.
What exactly is a "lesbian"? Is a sexual relationship with a woman essential in defining oneself as such, or can one remain celibate while still considering herself homosexual? Also, what defines "sex" between two women? The author attempts to answer these questions in the beginning, stating that for the purpose of the text she will only be examining those who have acted upon their sexual desires for women. While this is fine for what is basically a regurgitation of female same-sex evidence throughout history, I would have liked to have gained some insight on the complexities of human sexuality on an instinctual level. Perhaps the author could have explored how a more open-minded society became more and more amenable to the study of lesbianism not as a mental affliction but as a genetic predisposition having nothing to do with psychological illness. Not that I believe lesbianism is 100% biological. But that's the thing--this book could have helped add to my knowledge of the nature vs. nurture debate as it relates to homosexuality, and it just didn't.
I would still recommend this book for any lesbian looking to learn about Sapphic history, but I would also warn them not to expect much in terms of knowing what makes us tick on the inside. And expect to do a lot of re-reading--this book is chock-full of run-on sentences that tend to make things that much more convoluted.(less)
I've only read two Colum McCann novels, but he's already one of my favourite authors. Dancer is very much like Let the Great World Spin in the way tha...moreI've only read two Colum McCann novels, but he's already one of my favourite authors. Dancer is very much like Let the Great World Spin in the way that it draws from several points of view to beautifully illustrate one theme/event/person. I've read reviews that describe this shift in voice as bothersome, but I think it is one of McCann's finest techniques and allows him to truly shine as a talented writer.
Dancer is rich in historical context, first set in post-war Soviet Union and powering through to Europe and North America during the advent of AIDS. While the story focuses primarily on Rudik, a Russian boy turned ballet megastar, the distinct voices of other characters are very much heard as they struggle with poverty, government oppression, personal loss, and forbidden desire. Almost all the characters seem to want a life they can't have, and then there's Rudik who flamboyantly doesn't give a shit what anyone else thinks and goes after what he wants with mad obsession. But then some of the others slowly get what they want, too, and this filled me with a wonderful sense of hope.
Dancer is a completely different book by the time it ends, as it spans a period of almost fifty years. This allows you to truly invest in its characters and how different each of their lives become by the time their journey is over. Horrible things happen and misery ensues, but I think the overall message is quite inspirational in that the characters, especially Rudik, manage to carve out the life they want, no matter what society tells them they should want.
I'm very much looking forward to reading more of McCann's novels, and I hope more North Americans discover him.(less)
Comfort Food for Breakups doesn't disappoint. As its title indicates, reading this book is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket while chowing down...moreComfort Food for Breakups doesn't disappoint. As its title indicates, reading this book is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket while chowing down on a favourite childhood dish. Bociurkiw intermingles memory and food in such savoury language that you really taste her words, smell each described dish, and feel each emotion bubbling up from the pot. I'd recommend picking this up on a lazy, winter day--but not if you're on a diet!(less)
Cunt provokes. Cunt is hard to swallow. Cunt requires an open mind.
The marketing language is true: if you have a cunt, you should read it. I’ve read some scathing reviews of the book, and I’d be interested in getting a better sense of how it was initially received when it was released. This is the type of book you need to sit with for a while rather than pounce on, because Muscio’s positions are not easy to digest. She ignorantly claims that women should avoid all western medicine because most of it was invented by men. She advocates for the public humiliation of all men who have been accused of rape, sometimes based on hearsay alone. For me, the forehead-smacking climax happened when Muscio describes her self-induced abortion using pennyroyal, blue cohosh root, and a lot of meditation — without mentioning that the pennyroyal dose required for an abortion can be fatal or cause kidney and liver damage. True story.
So it may come as a surprise when I say I loved the book. But I didn’t enjoy it because I agree with all of Muscio’s views. I liked it because it provides me with language to express my own feminist beliefs, which are in a state of perpetual development. Radical feminism may have a bad reputation, but I’m a strong believer in its important role in advancing gender equality. And oh my, does it ever rub my cunt the wrong way when people, women especially, tell me there is no longer a place in society for radical feminism. Yes, there is.
Where Cunt succeeds is in its core message: women should re-focus on forming a united front. Prior to women having as many rights as we do now, first and second waves of feminism demanded a rock-solid bond among large female groups to succeed in gaining equality. (Not saying all camps were united, but still.) Now, among a new generation of women who have more basic human rights, the term “feminism” has somehow been tainted; I think links between women have been fractured as a result. This is why I’m happy to see initiatives like Duke University’s Who Needs Feminism? project, which strives to correct misconceptions that modern-day feminism is somehow unnecessary or negative.
Cunt‘s chapter on rape is especially enlightening. I’m paraphrasing here, but some of the most poignant lines in the book describe how a man can rape a woman and sacrifice a coffee break, yet when a woman is raped, several generations of women are affected. If a mother is raped, she raises her child in an environment where that has happened. There is something very, very wrong about that distribution of power, and I see that imbalance spilling over into other areas of women’s lives. Whether severely damaging or relatively benign, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to state that every woman has at one point felt powerless at the hands of a man/men, whether it be in the workplace, walking down the street, in a marriage, or as mothers relying on expensive daycare so they can work outside the home. When I think of all the ways women still struggle for equality, I can’t argue against Cunt‘s solid position on essential feminist reading lists.
If you have a cunt, read this book. If you don’t have a cunt, read this book to gain a better understanding of your friends, relatives, and lovers who have cunts. I look forward to reading Muscio’s latest, Rose: Love in Violent Times, which was released last year. In it, Muscio explores how rape and the destruction of the earth are interconnected, a basic principle of the ecofeminist movement. I’m a total newbie to this theory, and I look forward to Muscio’s work ushering me into the sphere. Expect a review later in the year.(less)
**spoiler alert** What a page-turner! Waters is a talented "mixer" of Victorian and contemporary language, of historical reference and relevant social...more**spoiler alert** What a page-turner! Waters is a talented "mixer" of Victorian and contemporary language, of historical reference and relevant social issues, of interesting plot and sensual description. This book was absolutely luscious.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't read much historical fiction--on which, to me, Tipping the Velvet only borders--but I am amazed at Waters' ability to write in a sort of nineteenth-century prose and make it sound genuine. She's been compared to Dickens, and I can understand why. But amidst a very Victorianesque, almost bashful way of describing things lies a blatant sensuousness that I can't see being touched by any Victorian-age writer. Waters cunningly uses words like "queer" and "gay" in the traditional sense, yet I could almost hear her chuckle at the double-entendres as she wrote them. Not to mention the symbolism behind the oyster, a hermaphroditic creature of the sea.
I've heard some say that the book is formulaic and predictable and, perhaps in and of itself, it is. Outside of that, however, the story is fresh and important amongst other stories of love and struggle. I enjoyed watching Nancy go from one extreme to the next--from the shamed, homophobic Kitty to the blatantly shameless Diana, and then finally to an "out and proud" Flo. Kitty causes Nan to step into the world for which she is meant, while Diana's extremely open desires force Nan to be just as open, thus ensuring her place in her rightful community. Then Flo swoops in and teaches her the meaning of it all, and it comes full circle as Nan is able to let go of Kitty and her shame because of Flo. Formulaic it may sound, but did it make for a beautiful story? I think so.
The only thing I could have done without has to do with a portion of the ending. In what world would Nan's only four lovers ALL gather at the socialist rally? I understand the meaning behind her final conversation with Kitty and would have thought the plot naked without it--but was it really necessary that she tie up loose ends with Zena and see Diana again? It was all a little too deux ex machina for me.
Despite some eye-rolling moments at the end, however, I would highly recommend this book. Now I'm off to research the history of lesbianism in nineteenth-century England...(less)
I could have written this book (if I could write like Stacey May Fowles). Being twenty-five, I've just emerged f...moreI have a secret.
This book is about me.
I could have written this book (if I could write like Stacey May Fowles). Being twenty-five, I've just emerged from my early twenties and this book took me back in the most delicious of ways. I love books that invoke nostalgia, and this one did just that in a sexy, sordid sort of way. It dug up memories from that time and managed to frame even the ugly ones in a "beautifully broken" little package. I really enjoy writing that can make romance out of the most flawed things, and Be Good tops the list of books that effectively accomplish this.
I also loved the way Fowles used several points of view to explore the very many realities that exist solely because of subjectivity. How we can never really know another person because we are inevitably limited by our own experiences. For me, this highlights the rarity--therefore, the importance--of true connections with others, as demonstrated by how very hard it is to be truthful with even ourselves. I love how heavily Be Good touches on this, treating the theme with importance.
This is the first book in a long time that made me want to write again. Perhaps because it's good to "write what you know", and Be Good acted as an example of a book I could write because its subject speaks to me so much. Damn you, Stacey May Fowles, for writing it first! But seriously, good job. A lesser writer would have made it sound emo, kind of like Reality Bites.(less)
If this book was real life and I had met Hoolboom's version of Steve Reinke, I would think he was a cult leader wannabe, a whack job with questionable...moreIf this book was real life and I had met Hoolboom's version of Steve Reinke, I would think he was a cult leader wannabe, a whack job with questionable motives and sanity. But in Hoolboom's world, the one where "The Steve Machine" has the power to "cure" disease and alter the core of someone's personality, I mildly enjoyed this book's improbable insight. (Very mixed thoughts, I know, but such is how I feel about this book.) I personally think this book is a demonstration of the placebo affect (a line in the book may imply this is indeed what it is), but I'm willing to accept that I could be dead wrong about this. I feel the book is more about the relationship between the sick and the healthy, and what kind of relationship can form out of this circumstance.
Setting all rationality and my personal opinions about the characters' motives, I did enjoy the writing. I found myself wanting to enthusiastically nod my head at certain parts where I felt the author hit the nail on the head, so to speak. However, at the same time, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want the book to end. (less)