Middlebrook is simply a first-rate biographer. She manages to piece together all the ragged threads of Anne Sexton's life and work: the possible sexuaMiddlebrook is simply a first-rate biographer. She manages to piece together all the ragged threads of Anne Sexton's life and work: the possible sexual abuse as a child, the postpartum depression that led to her first hospitalization, the affairs, the alcoholism, the immense talent and the galloping madness that would ultimately take the poet's life in 1974. There is so much background information here: Anne's surviving family, her doctors and her fellow poet-friends all provide much needed and valuable background. But key to fleshing out Anne are the recordings she and her doctors agreed to make, as Anne would "fugue" out after most psychiatrict sessions. These recordins allowed her to listen back and make notes and understand her experiences, but they also allow us to understand this pivotal and profoundly damaged woman and the poetry she created....more
I wanted this book to really champion loud, opinionated, awesome and fearsome women (you know, the ones that men call "bitches") and yet, this falls fI wanted this book to really champion loud, opinionated, awesome and fearsome women (you know, the ones that men call "bitches") and yet, this falls flat. Just a rattling off of names and events, some of which seem to have nothing to do with feminism or bitchery. An excel spreadsheet would have sufficed. Her rants come across as heralding a position for herself amongst the bitches but forgive me, I thought she was famous for writing a book about bipolar disorder and prozac? How does that make her a Bitch Goddess?...more
The first book selected by the Oprah Book Club some years back and one of the best books in that illustrious collection. Strange how the goddess of TVThe first book selected by the Oprah Book Club some years back and one of the best books in that illustrious collection. Strange how the goddess of TV revived the fiction market in one fell swoop. "Read" she commanded. And "read" we all did. First of all: She's Come Undone is just a well-written book about a wickedly funny, slightly bitter woman coming of age in the me generation. Much has been written about the fact that the writer - Wally Lamb - is... A MAN! Yes, I will agree with the general assessment that "gosh, he writes a woman so well" but more than that Dolores is a character that you just love even when she pisses you off and you root for even when she doesn't always deserve to succeed. You will never forget this book....more
I was about 21 when I first tackled "The Handmaid's Tale" and not yet ready to identify myself as a feminist. It was also the first Atwood that I readI was about 21 when I first tackled "The Handmaid's Tale" and not yet ready to identify myself as a feminist. It was also the first Atwood that I read. I remember, initially, thinking how dangerously knowing the story was, how close to the reality of what the most conservative minds of America would love for us to become.
Offred, as she is know (meaning "Of Fred" or belonging to someone) is a handmaiden. She is a woman neither young nor old, who was married and had a daughter when everything went to shit. A war occurred, a coup took place and the Christian equivalent of sharia law went into effect. Her marriage was nullified by the state, because her husband had been married before her and left his wife for her. She was let go from her job, as women aren't allowed to work outside the home, and then one day the money in her bank account disappears. It has been deposited in her husband's account, but she can no longer access it on her own. They attempt to flee, with their daughter, but something goes terribly awry and now, some years later, Offred is telling us about her life and her current assignment.
She has been assigned to a Commander, an older man, and his wife who may or may not have been a televangelist (something like a Tammy Faye, minus the spider lashes) who wish to conceive a child through her. But Offred, despite her acceptance of her fate (husband is likely deceased, daughter is...?) is still sharp of mind. She remembers so much - the life she had including growing up the daughter of an ardent feminist, the time at the Rachel & Leah Center where she was molded in the ways of becoming a docile handmaiden - and she looks forward to so much. The stolen nights with the Commander, whose weakness for real human contact belies his professional agenda in this male-dominated society and provides Offred an opportunity to get as close to her former life as possible.
Today, I'm a lot older than 21 and the world is much different than it was in the late '80s when I first read this. I'm reminded that with each great advancement in our world, there is still a fraction that desires a step backward. They never couch it as such. It's "family values" or "traditional values" or such. "Handmaid's Tale" seemed like a biting commentary on our time, twenty-seven years ago, but today the pendulum swings make a louder noise but carry less weight.
It was good to return to this story, but despite how "important" this story seems, today I find other Atwood books (particularly "Cat's Eye") to be of stronger quality and certainly, more significance in my world....more
I first read this English translation of the classic German play about 13-14 years ago. Lulu is an archetype: she's the representative of negative femI first read this English translation of the classic German play about 13-14 years ago. Lulu is an archetype: she's the representative of negative female energy. She uses men, she commits adultery, she is coy and secretive and ultimately she is destroyed because she is seen as such an evil in our society. The unrepentant woman. This was the first time I read the play with a sympathetic eye toward Lulu who knows only the flirtations, infidelities, manipulations, murder and also victimization that she lives and dies by. I always resented that image of the woman who seeks to weaken her enemies by playing the part of the gamine, but this time when reading the play I saw that Lulu really was a child - even when married, even when living the high society life in Paris, even when prostituting herself for her father and husband. Her only crime is that she's self-aware of her limitations. But I no longer view her as an enemy that she has such limits and commits such crimes. She is wholly indicative of the society she lives in not a devil working against the system to emasculate men....more