I loved this memoir. Wise, beautifully written, funny. I loved The Liars' Club too, and I drove to Portland to see Karr's early reading at Powells. ItI loved this memoir. Wise, beautifully written, funny. I loved The Liars' Club too, and I drove to Portland to see Karr's early reading at Powells. It was reassuring to me that eventually, this book caught up with that time and reinforced what she said introducing her first memoir all those years before. Another reviewer (or three) have complained that it is all "me, me. me" and I will point out that this is a memoir. This is a person's story about her own life. It details her own fight toward a healthy life. What it isn't doing is blaming the world. She assigns some blame, but mostly to herself, accepting her own culpability and striving to clarify the period in her life that parallel's the life of her son. The opening pages addressed to Dev are not our pages, they belong to her son. Skip them, perhaps, and begin with chapter one. She works mightily to be fair.
"If [my ex-husband and I] talked about the night before, I don't recall it, which isn't fair to either of us, for it doesn't show our our reasoned selves paring away at our sacred cows. But it's a neurological fact that the scared self holds on while the reasoned one lets go. The adrenaline that let our ancestors escape the sabertooth tiger scars into the meat of our brains the extraordinary, the loud. The shrieking fight or out-of-character insult endures forever, while the daily sweetness dissolves like sugar in water" (96).
Here is a woman who has struggled mightily to make peace with her own weakness. I am not generally fond of religious conversion stories, but I respect Karr's path at the end of the book. Any way she can make peace with her weakness, find humility and grace, and stride forward into the world without anger, resentment, or cynicism is admirable in my books. I respect her story.
She is funny. Oh, my, she is so very funny. It is a rare thing and I treasure that.
She also speaks about social class with more consideration and tenderness than I could manage. (She is careful not to take undo shots at her East-Coast-Brahmin husband for the sake of her son, and is always cautious about the reliability of her own memory, which I loved in her first memoir.) Class is one of those issues—life race, religion, sexism, and the use of antidepressants—that inevitably stirs anxiety and fury on my Facebook page. I will treasure one of her daddy's lines quoted in the book: "Born born on third base . . . and think they hit a home run." I see that a lot.
A former student recommended this book to be when it first came out and I am ashamed it took me this long to get around to reading it. (Now there is another one I will have to read post haste.)...more
This is a great short story and certainly the most famous of Gilman's, who also wrote many other wonderful stories, introduced Kindergarten to the US,This is a great short story and certainly the most famous of Gilman's, who also wrote many other wonderful stories, introduced Kindergarten to the US, and wrote a feminist utopia.
After you have found and read this "creepy" story, read the reason she wrote it:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper" (1913)
This article originally appeared in the October 1913 issue of The Forerunner.
Many and many a reader has asked that. When the story first came out, in the New England Magazine about 1891, a Boston physician made protest in The Transcript. Such a story ought not to be written, he said; it was enough to drive anyone mad to read it. Another physician, in Kansas I think, wrote to say that it was the best description of incipient insanity he had ever seen, and--begging my pardon--had I been there?
Now the story of the story is this:
For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia--and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still-good physique responded so promptly that he concluded there was nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn advice to "live as domestic a life as far as possible," to "have but two hours' intellectual life a day," and "never to touch pen, brush, or pencil again" as long as I lived. This was in 1887.
I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over.
Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained, and helped by a wise friend, I cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and went to work again--work, the normal life of every human being; work, in which is joy and growth and service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite--ultimately recovering some measure of power.
Being naturally moved to rejoicing by this narrow escape, I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, with its embellishments and additions, to carry out the ideal (I never had hallucinations or objections to my mural decorations) and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it.
The little book is valued by alienists and as a good specimen of one kind of literature. It has, to my knowledge, saved one woman from a similar fate--so terrifying her family that they let her out into normal activity and she recovered.
But the best result is this. Many years later I was told that the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper.
It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked....more
Like the other two volumes of the series, I liked Powers. Le Guin's YA series is well-written, genuinely well written, and the cultures she creates arLike the other two volumes of the series, I liked Powers. Le Guin's YA series is well-written, genuinely well written, and the cultures she creates are authentic and well rounded representations of realistic cultures.
For me, that was also the only problem I had with the series. All the societies, except one, that come up in the series are rich and three dimensional, fully believable, and sexist. The repression of women and the use of slaves is, of course, one aspect of the cultures that is believable. Le Guin usefully explores the rationale for such abuses and for the ability of people to both sustain and submit to such abuse of their rights.
There is the lovely moment when Gav retraces an earlier path and recognizes that one reason Luck served him the first time was that people recognized he was mad, and the crazy are given a wide berth, avoided or served, but not interfered with. I used to have to explain that to students who see insanity as illness, something requiring locking up and medication. Instead, in many cultures it is sacred, the Irish expression "touched" is a literal belief—the mad have been touched by something sacred, best not to fool with them. Le Guin's story is rich with such insights into human culture. It is why years ago I labeled her the writer of anthropological SF. Always Coming Home is the most obvious example of this, imo.
However, I came hunting through the fantasy and SF aisles of my favorite college book store looking for utopia, not dystopia. I already lived in a sexist and exploitative world. I understood how it worked and what allowed it to work. What I wanted was a realistic view of how an egalitarian society might function. There isn't much of that here. (Go read Molly Gloss's only SF novel, The Dazzle of Day for a look at adventure & fairness.) Still, I enjoyed the novel and only wish I had read the books in the right order. ...more
Maybe 4 stars or maybe only 3—I have a hard time ranking books. I read the middle book of the Annal of the Western Shore series first and then this onMaybe 4 stars or maybe only 3—I have a hard time ranking books. I read the middle book of the Annal of the Western Shore series first and then this one: next I will read the final book. It seems to me that this series should have gone on and on, exploring how decent people struggle to get by in oppressive cultures. I might have loved this book more if it had either represented a non-sexist people (the reason I first began reading SF and fantasy was to inhabit egalitarian worlds) or represented a real one with the magic added, but I am not sure those are possibilities.
Instead I found a well-written fantasy novel with realistic characters caught in a completely believable and stifling situation. I was slow to recognize the two central characters. If I had read this series in order, I would have had more pleasure from the recurrence of Orrec and Gry in the next book. The moral dilemma of having a destructive talent which is considered a blessing was usefully explored. I think we seldom consider whether the ability to do something automatically means we should do it. That is the essence of both Gry and Orrec's conflict. ...more