just reread this for my class. there are so many issues this book brings up, it's hard to do justice to all of them. first of all, the devastating con...morejust reread this for my class. there are so many issues this book brings up, it's hard to do justice to all of them. first of all, the devastating consequences of parental neglect and parental abuse. secondly, how abused kids can and often do develop an amazing tenderness and capacity for love that makes them treasures of comfort and light to others. then, how abuse breeds abuse, how trauma forces itself into daily life and exacts endless repetition. fourth, the role of lying in the book and outside the book (is a narrator who owns up to being a habitual liar ipso facto an unreliable narrator? if not, why should we believe her?). fifth, the appalling treatment people get in mental institutions, across the board, all the time, at all ages, with all diagnoses, period. narrative after narrative testifies to this. our mental health system is so broken you want to put your face in your hands and cry. yet, the "mentally ill" are one of the weakest constituencies in the population. they have no in-built credibility, they are frightened and traumatized, they are held captive against their will, they are tremendously needy, they are often poor and resourceless, so there isn't much hope for reform. sixth, gender identity disorder and all the bullshit mistique of gender norms as represented, among other bullshit places, in the DSM. seventh, what are we to do with kids whose parents are unable to manage them? see the slew of dropped-off kids in nebraska once the legislature passed its safe-haven law, which it hastened to modify). eighth: transgender kids. ninth: sexual abuse in mental facilities and how it is overlooked and even to some extent condoned. ninth, how the psychiatric community has given up on talking to patients and truly "treating" (i.e. helping) them. tenth, how there is little viable treatment for anyone suffering from mental pain anywhere in this country unless they are rolling in dough and lucky enough to find a professional and compassionate therapist.
ten neat points.
this book is written beautifully, lyrically, and effectively. it's a short book, and daphne will enchant you. (don't forget, at the end, to check her out on the net.)(less)
this book seems to me miraculous. i am blown away. the language is extraordinary -- simple and fluid and always surprising, all sharp angles and painf...morethis book seems to me miraculous. i am blown away. the language is extraordinary -- simple and fluid and always surprising, all sharp angles and painful enchantments -- and what it says, the depth of pain the book carries on its slender breezy back, wow, it left me breathless. strange how much psychic pain such a little funny book can carry, how many deep terrors it can plumb: death, illness, the loss of those we need/love, the body and its redundancies, the unspeakable violence we do to ourselves in order to stay whole, the inevitable breaking of that wholeness, how we doom connection, how we find connection, how connection surprises us with its resilience, its resistance to attack.
twenty-year-old mona gray exorcises her terrors by knocking on wood, counting, and making love to a hatchet. she holds a few certainties, all having to do with the clean hard pain she can inflict to her body. aimee bender, who seems very young and is certainly very brave (check out her beautiful website), explores fear, pain, and love through the blows life deals to the body, and does a very good job at inflicting quite a few messy wounds in the process. if you have spent more than a day or two worrying about the unbearable semantic pregnancy of the body, this book is for you. when i finished it i felt i had been broken apart and put back together six or seven times.
there are some heartbreakingly beautiful scenes, and they are all about people finding each other in spite of self-defeating efforts to make themselves all but unfindable.(less)
this is my second time around, after many years, and i still find this books exceptional. first of all, kate millett writes beautifully. this woman's...morethis is my second time around, after many years, and i still find this books exceptional. first of all, kate millett writes beautifully. this woman's had many careers -- artist, activist, feminist theorist, writer -- but if her talents resided only in putting words in sequence and saying amazing things with them, she should still be qualified as a genius.
this book oozes pain. if you cannot deal with pain, you should not read it, otherwise you'll find it long, verbose, overwritten, or self-indulgent. autobiographical writing about pain is possibly self-indulgent by definition: the writer indulges one's own distress enough to put it down on paper and present it to everyone's eye to contemplate, hopefully with sympathy. it's hard to be detached, ironic, funny, or lithe if you write about horror. it's hard to convey the sense of "being over it" (isn't this what we require of those who talk about their suffering, a sort of heroic self-transcendence?). kate millett has all the reasons in the world not to be over it. it is thanks to that fact that she isn't anywhere near over it that those who have experienced her selfsame pain can read this and find themselves home. kate millett provides a home for a category of people who feel so dispossessed and persecuted, they think they are never entitled to a home ever again.
in more than 300 thickly printed pages, kate millett describes what happened to her when her next-of-kins decided she was bipolar (they didn't mind about the depression, only about the mania) and had her hospitalized. the devastation millett, by then an accomplished and famous writer and artist, not to mention a university professor, felt at this sudden loss of autonomy and personhood is heartbreaking. her world crumbled. when you are labeled with "certifiable" (as in by a doctor) insanity, anything you say will be used against you. it is perhaps the most insidious and unfightable form of invalidation. it erodes, not only your standing in the world, but also your faith in others and yourself.
to express this horrible experience of pervasive hostility millett needs lots of words. the words are beautiful and on many occasions one finds they say things one would be hard-pressed to find the words for. she makes you want to grab your pencil and underline. she makes you want to memorize.
what strikes me most upon this second reading is the way in which millett produces verbal magic in the dark. in a way, she is writing in a lightless room, hoping that what she feels under her hands are in fact a blank sheet and a pen full of ink. she writes from a place in which her words have stopped making sounds. she is crazy, after all. why should her protestations, her anguish, her pain be taken as anything other than the rantings of a madwoman? her faith in words and readership is miraculous. she is as tough as nails.
the writing is rich, slow, yet urgent. she writes like her life depends on it, yet at the same time she dwells on sensations, more often than not, perhaps surprisingly, delicious sensation of pleasure. hands, the land, the dirt, art, colors, wine, food, bodies. she is not shy. all the pleasure is sexual and all of it is on the page. the pleasure demands to be written even more than the pain, because it is so precarious yet so miraculous, so terribly precious, so inexplicably life-giving. trust those who have been killed again and again (forced thorazine and straight-jackets will do that to you as surely as guns and knives) to know the pleasures of the skin, the eye, of simple survival.
she also depicts an intensely paranoid world. anyone around her, at any time, could pick up the phone and tell her family that she's gone down the deep end again. her inner fights with her (much justified and realistic) paranoia are one of the most powerfully disturbing moments of this book, especially when the objects of this pervasive, soul-destroying suspicion are lesbian lovers on a reclaimed piece of land on which a feminist art colony is being built. these are not the people who will call the man. these are the people who call the man. if these people call the man, nowhere is safe.
i hope my students will like this. i hope they will appreciate how hard it is to put together beautiful, meaningful language out of forced silencing, and indulge in the pleasure of millett's words as much as i did.(less)