In Jane Austen's novels, the only option for a woman is to find a suitable husband or to become a spinster. Kate Bolick's takes this old-fashion notio In Jane Austen's novels, the only option for a woman is to find a suitable husband or to become a spinster. Kate Bolick's takes this old-fashion notion and demonstrates how the idea still pervades today. For this author, however, her problem isn't finding a suitable husband, it is a determination to remain single. She continuously escapes relationship after relationship to establish her freedom. She does not want to fall into a comfortable trap only to have her creativity stifled (or her need to be alone).
Part memoir, part literary criticism, Bolick attempts to establish herself as a writer (going from a freelancer to an editor) all the while escaping constant attempts at marriage. When she ends these relationships on good terms, she is still deemed unlucky in love. Inspired by authors with similar "spinster" fates, she turns to them to decide her own. She examines their lives compared to her own, searching for answers.
Much of her examination reminded me of Knausagard's My Struggle, wherein and compares herself to her mother at the same age. She is always in her shadow even if their paths and even their looks are very different. The early death of her mother from cancer haunts her present as if she has been robbed of a life companion. It happens just as she is entering adulthood leaving her listless and uncertain. These memoir parts far outshine the literary parts.
Bolick's literary heroine "spinsters" guide her. She posits that the greatest fear of an aging single woman is that they will end up on the streets alone and uncared for. As one of these authors does end up this way this creates a crisis Bolick as to whether she is on the right path or if she is just being stubborn. She wants a life of experience that she feels she won't get in a relationship. She wants a great deal from her, "one wild and precious life." The end feels inconclusive as the need for freedom butts up against the need for security.
Favorite Parts: When you're a daughter, your mother's face is your first mirror, and if you share her features—in our case hazel eyes, brown hair, a serious amount of freckles, a small frame with those "narrow shoulders held erect —odds are you'll unconsciously adopt her attitude of self-regard. My mother considered herself be plain, if not homely, and so I believed her, and so I considered myself. She'd spoken so vividly about her awkward adolescence that I could conjure that mousy girl in a heartbeat—in my mind's eye she was always slumped against a wall of lockers at Newburyport High School (we shared the same alma mater), hair dull and limp, painfully alone in an ill-fitting plaid dress. I carded this phantom twin wherever I went, no matter that I couldn't have been more different myself, outgoing and athletic." P.28
"...culture tells us that a spinster is without future—no heirs to bear, nobody to remember her when she's gone—not a woman racing towards it. P32
mother and I spoke candidly and often, there was a part of herself she held in reserve, that she was waiting for me to get just a little older—a few years, maybe by the time I was thirty, I hazarded, married and with my own family—to talk to me frankly about herself, woman to woman, and the two threads of our lives, necessarily divided by my growing into my own person, would twine back together into one long rope, and she'd unburden herself of the secrets she carried, and I'd learn things about her I'd never known. And so I couldn't shake the conviction that we'd been robbed. She'd raised me in her image to be the one true friend she'd never had, and now neither of us would ever know the conversations we'd waited for all our lives.p42
Over the years I've noticed that only men use this phrase—"unlucky in love"—in reference exclusively to unmarried women, as if they can't pon ss mibly comprehend that contentment or even happiness is possible without the centrality of a man. Even my father said it to me once, with all good intentions, after a breakup. I told him that I was sad for sure that the relationship hadn't worked out, but that in fad I considered myself lucky in love: I'd had the pleasure of falling in love several times, with men who loved me in return. Just because one or the other of those relationships hadn't lasted my entire life didn't detract from what I'd gained. P 154
Few realizations are as demoralizing as knowing that the only thing standing between you and what you want is yourself. P197...more
A writer's diary is a multi-faceted story. On one hand it is the daily account of events, on the other it is a touchstone of memories, a wellspring ofA writer's diary is a multi-faceted story. On one hand it is the daily account of events, on the other it is a touchstone of memories, a wellspring of inspiration. A single event leads to a memory, which leads to a story. Where it all leads often the writer doesn't know.
Heidi Julvatis's new memoir The Folded Clock is a series of short diary entries with topics ranging from the art of creation, parenthood, dating, and seemingly random events. The reader gets to see her inner self, unvarnished. We can see how her writer mind works, taking ("stealing") ideas from the everyday and working them into her stories. Even the title of the book comes from her daughter. We also see her life as a lover, as a wife, as a parent, and as a daughter. We see her inner guilt, her selfish side. It is all revealed in short snippets told over a period of two years. The timeline of the entries does not seem to matter. Collectively, the reader is treated to see life through the author's eyes.
The short entries range from nuggets of wisdom, insecurity, and a key to creativity. Each entry could be fleshed out into a short story or a book and it is a fascinating insight to the creative process. Having read two of her novels (The Uses of Enchantment and The Vanishers) one could pick up pieces of the diary stories and how they were woven into the narratives. One could compare this to Dorris Lessing's The Golden Notebook in all that it reveals.
I have stolen names and I have stolen titles, two at this point; I intend to steal more. (I will at a future point, steal the title of this book from my daughter. We will be at a lunch following a visit to an Egyptian museum in Berlin; we will have bought a book on hieroglyphs. We will be trying to learn the picture letters, one of which is based on a drawing of folded cloth. "folded clock?" My daughter will ask. "Folded cloth," I'll correct. And then I'll pickpocket the accident.) p38
I acted sad because I was sad. Our tree would never be the same. It might even die. The damage wasn't insignificant. I wanted to be the conduit of sadness—and of the appreciation of passing time and mortality—by interpreting the significance of the loss of the tree for my kids. I could tell this wasn't happening. I could tell they were more interested in my reaction to the tree. I thought ahead to a point in time when this behavior might become symbolic of who I was or, depending on my life status, am. I do not think it unwise to view all children as future tattletales. Such a perspective forces you to better (and with greater care) behave, lest your conduct be chronicled later and prove revealing in ways you did not intend. If and when my daughter told her own children about her memories of the big hurricane, maybe the only takeaway she'd recall would involve me. I was the object lesson. My mother, she was undone by the possible death of a tree. P.95
She's episodic, I'm narrative. I see connections everywhere. Life is one big plot trap. She's a woman who has lived many fantastic yet disparate and self-canceling lives. She's a rebooter, a category shape-shifter. I entered a track in my twenties and stayed on it and on it. She's my occasional fantasy; I don't know if I'm hers. But I suspect this is why our relationship is strained occasionally. We remind each other of who we aren't. P167
The people in our house were my fault. Our fault, but really, my fault. I'm not being a martyr. I'm speaking realistically, in a manner reflecting the consensus reality of the situation. No men at this party were standing around talking about quitting their jobs to they could be a part of—sorry, live—their children's lives. No men listening to these men were thinking defensively to themselves, Fuck off, or after a moment's reflection, You're so right, actually. No men would be writing about these conversations tonight in their diaries. My husband would absolutely write about these issues in his diary tonight if he kept one. He worries about and buys all of our children's dothing—the pants, the underwear the sneakers, the socks. He keeps constant tabs on who needs what, and then he buys it. But to the greater world, these pantsless children reflect more poorly on me than they do on him. Women are responsible for the people in the family having pants. P218...more
We keep our fears and secrets behind a locked door. It opens to those we deeply trust. Many would prefer death to having that trust broken and their iWe keep our fears and secrets behind a locked door. It opens to those we deeply trust. Many would prefer death to having that trust broken and their inner self revealed to anyone. It is a delicate balance in a deep friendship to protect those secrets, but when it becomes a life and death situation, one chooses life while the other would have preferred death.
The novel The Door deals with the relationship between two women. One is a famous writer and the other is her tireless mysterious housekeeper. A writer often has a miraculous way of seeing through locked doors, but Emerence is impenetrable to all. Even though Emerence slowly reveals her secrets to the Lady Writer she never truly lets her in. Slowly she is brought into the circle of trust. There are seemingly casual mentions to the horrors Emerence has experienced. Much of what she has seen reminded me of The Painted Bird. This experience marks one separate from the rest of the community even though it is not of her own doing.
A moving work focusing on secrets, relationships, and community. It would seem the message is that it is better to reveal yourself to a close confident than hide all the treasure of your inner self away from the world. No one will see it's true value until it is too late.
Favorite passages ...and how the working class--her class, not mine--now had endless opportunities opening up for them. Emerence replied that she knew the peasant mentality; her own family were peasants. They didn't care a straw who bought their eggs and their cream so long as it made them rich. The worker would fight for his rights only until he became the boss. She wasn't interested in the proletarian masses (she didn't use the word, but she described the thing), and above all she hated the idle, lying gentry. Priests were liars; doctors ignorant and money-grabbing; lawyers didn't care who they represented. Victim or criminal; engineers calculated in advance how to keep back a pile of bricks for their own houses; and the huge plane factories and institutes of learning were all filled with crooks.
Emerence hated power no matter whose hands it was in. P. 111