I thought this graphic novel was really fun. I love reading all of Lincoln's emo letters from when he was all depressed and freaked out. I feel like LI thought this graphic novel was really fun. I love reading all of Lincoln's emo letters from when he was all depressed and freaked out. I feel like Lincoln really was one of the nerdier presidents and it is just fun to read about someone who actually ended up becoming one of our best presidents also being totally awkward and insecure in his youth. ...more
A couple of my friends read this book and enjoyed it and, after reading Sex at Dawn recently, which provides an evolutionary psychology based argumentA couple of my friends read this book and enjoyed it and, after reading Sex at Dawn recently, which provides an evolutionary psychology based argument against monogamy, I became interested in reading this book chronicling American adventures in sexual nonconformity during the so-called sexual revolution. Talese has that new journalism style which will be very familiar for those who have read some of his contemporaries, such as Studs Terkel and Joan Didion. His writing style kind of floats from one person to the next in the book and it has an interesting rhythm; one moment it focuses in on the tiny details of emotion and setting of a particular event in one small moment of a person's life and in another it will widen its lens to take in the larger historical and legal context everyone is inside of.
This changing focus kind of lulls you as the reader into a strange, observatory mode. It is deeply intimate while still feeling somewhat remote and alienated from its subject matter and reads more like a novel than non-fiction in many chapters since there can be such a wealth of details provided about people's inner lives while still being very much in the third person. Even when Talese brings himself into the book at the very end, he continues to write in the third person and in an odd way, he tells you the fewest details about his own interior life as a witness to all that goes on in the book compared with the depth he goes into telling the life stories of the other major players in the book.
I liked reading the book and it did provoke me to meditate about the issues at play because of its style and the variety in the central figures that Talese dwells on. There are definitely some flaws and limitations to it also though. It is very clear by the time you finish the book that Talese is really primarily interested in the sexual revolution only as it applies to the perspective and lifestyle of the average, white, middle class American male. Although there are some moments here and there where Talese digresses into the point of view of women in the book, women are clearly far from central to the overall movement of the book as we get comparatively brief glimpses into their worlds and lives and what descriptions he does give us, feel abrupt and not quite sincere. I guess the irony there, is how much women's perspective and pleasure was largely ignored by the sexual revolution itself, much less in journalistic coverage of it. Similarly there are pretty much no people of color represented at all, male or female.
The feminist movement, gay liberation movement, and civil rights movement, which were experiencing simultaneous revolutions and which obviously had a fairly large and direct relationship with the sexual revolution, are all almost totally ignored except for a few, brief asides. I found myself wondering often what kind of commentary could have been found from people involved in those movements. The absence of homosexuality in the book is especially glaring, considering that it was obviously something that Talese was encountering quite a bit along the way and he even makes certain meandering hints about it several times, but he never fully engages with the issue. I think Talese was focused on trying to write to a very mainstream audience and I would suspect he felt like including homosexuality into these accounts would be so off-putting to readers that they would no longer be open to any of the other ideas in the book. But reading the book now, within a modern context, the total blinders to what was happening with gays and lesbians at the time is baffling.
With that said, there were long passages of the book that I found kind of fascinating, in a similar way to how I have felt attending Vagina Monologues/Memoirs over the years. While heterosexual male sexuality is all around us all the time and often incredibly in your face, what you don't hear often is men's honest, de-machoed self-reflections about what they like about the porn they watch, what attachments they do or do not feel to it, how they experience lust and desire and jealousy, and the kinds of the things they're looking for out of sex. These are the real goods that straight women are looking for paging through the Cosmo sex advice columns. Much of the book reads like the kind of unflinching conversations about sex that men might have with each other in a world more open to talking honestly about it and I was interested in getting to see behind the curtain in a way that doesn't happen very often.
I also appreciated the way in which the book maintained a certain amount of ambivalence in tone. It doesn't read as an endorsement of the sexual revolution per se and the leaders and radicals he describes are portrayed as real people, with flaws and strengths and three dimensional personalities. The book doesn't leave you with any easy conclusions or a pat thesis to take away. It is particularly interesting reading this book now, in light of the internet-generated explosion in porn consumption, the increasing mainstreaming of porn, the escalating fight for gay marriage, the growing prominence of polyamory and alternative relationship and family structures, and the declining state of heterosexual marriage. Its hard to know how related these developments are to some of the questions that emerged during the 70's, especially considering how many of these questions greatly pre-date the 70's and how much technology has changed our lives in such a short amount of time, but I feel like reading this book gave me some interesting context to reflect on. It also made me wonder about where my own history and attitudes would fit, if I tried to write it out into a similar style of narrative.
Dan Savage wrote this thing on the Stranger just the other day:
"Whether you believe that female sexual reserve/reluctance/caution is about socialization or biology or both, or that it's a reaction to sad fact the many unpleasant consequences of sex fall disproportionately on women (greater risk of pregnancy (um, duh), much likelier to be the victims of sexual and intimate-partner violence, easier for STIs to be transmitted from male-to-female than female-to-male), female sexual reserve/reluctance/caution exists."
Talese makes some related comments toward the end of the book (which I can't directly quote because it was overdue at the library and I took it back already) about how in his research he discovered that there pretty much is zero market for erotic massage and pornography amongst straight women. He chalks this up to a lot of broad generalizations about women not being sexually aroused by the nude male bodies of strangers and only being willing to be penetrated by the comfortable known penises of men they have relationships with.
Surely the fact that porn doesn't try very hard to appeal to women's tastes and the increased risk of violence and STIs that women cope with during anonymous straight sex that Dan lists in the quote above, must factor in too. Its weird that Talese would fall back on that kind of rhetoric at the end of the book though, considering how many women he encountered along the course of the book who did enjoy and seek out anonymous sex, who were aggressive, who broke out of those stereotypes when they had a safe space in which to do so.
It makes me think about how, part of the reason the sexual revolution was so much more of a success for men than for women ultimately, is that women have so much more negative shit in their way before they can even think about their desires and attaining total sexual freedom. No wonder reproductive rights and anti-domestic violence and sexual assault work were so important to feminism at the time, and still today. White middle-class men may have faced religious moral codes and obscenity laws trying to police their thoughts and fantasies, but that's nothing compared to the patriarchal complex of society that attempts to control and regulate the actual bodies of women, working class folks, people of color, and of course GLBTQ people.
In a corresponding way, we have a lot of great infrastructure now supporting the mitigation of the negative things restricting sexual freedom for women- Planned Parenthood, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault advocacy organizations, etc. There is so much more of a flood of positive-side sexual freedom promoters geared toward men though. Porn is absolutely everywhere, turning a 13 billion dollar profit in America, with a majority of men watching it regularly and being more open about that now than maybe ever before. There is also the continuing boom that the sex work industry has experienced. The only corrolary I can really think of for women, is the growing sex toy industry which has helped women reclaim their bodies and their sexuality for themselves, but which is still pretty small by comparison at least in terms of money spent.
My partner has said before that he thinks that as women gain equality and as the culture becomes more sex positive, more women will be an increasing consumer base for porn and maybe other types of sex work. It does seem true that more women watch porn now than they did in the past and it's certainly more accessible to women than it used to be. But in some ways, I can't help feeling like there is always going to be something extremely male about those things. Which makes me question, what would embody and encourage real sexual freedom for women? What kind of media and organizations would cater mostly to women? What would that look like? Is women's supposed "sexual reluctance," really reluctance or is it something else? How would you set non-sexist standards and terms for even building a framework for these things? These are all questions I've thought about for a long time, but something that I find myself wondering more and more these days. ...more
I am going to admit that I did not actually finish this book because I got too enraged by it as I got deeper in. While I enjoy the evolutionary psychoI am going to admit that I did not actually finish this book because I got too enraged by it as I got deeper in. While I enjoy the evolutionary psychology take downs which abound here and I'm glad that this book is being read by many of the mega annoying evpsych trolls out there, I still ultimately found it kind of bullshit.
I realize that this book is trying to market itself to a wider crowd and thus takes on some of usual pop science hobgoblins with its colloquialisms and tongue in cheek sense of humor. However, there was something about the overall tone of the book that really started to grate on me. I very much felt like the authors were not so much approaching the subject with an open attitude of objectivity, but with a desire to prove an argument with some kind of gross ulterior agendas attached.
For as feminist as they seem to want you to think they are, I couldn't help being constantly put on guard the ultimate, all too familiar, all too pat thesis of "Monogamy is almost impossible for humans to exist within because we are evolved to want sexual novelty and variety. Therefore, cut your husbands some slack, Ladies!" Even though the authors repeatedly stress that wanting sexual novelty is not exclusive to men, but is very much true of women as well, they still fall back on old attitudes about men being the ones who are more in need of sexual adventure and who must ultimately have allowances made for them.
Additionally, my critical feminist/critical race theory alert meter kept going off because of the broad generalizations they continually make about all pre-industrial societies being a certain way, without any qualifiers or allowances for the specific contexts those societies are within, possible exceptions to certain generalizable practices, or the constant bias that attaches in any analysis of pre-industrial cultures being studied in a Western post-industrial context. I also felt like we were never getting the other side of a lot of the research they quote in support of their theories, also making me somewhat wary of feeling like this book presents a full, fair picture of the science involved.
While the art work is innovative and impressive, the part crimethinc, part Artist's Way new-agey philosophy stuff could be a little bit over the top aWhile the art work is innovative and impressive, the part crimethinc, part Artist's Way new-agey philosophy stuff could be a little bit over the top at times. While I enjoyed the book, it was really just too heavy handed ultimately for me to give it more than three stars....more
I have finally defeated Gender Trouble with the tremendous help of an awesome reading group! So glad to have finished reading the book once and for alI have finally defeated Gender Trouble with the tremendous help of an awesome reading group! So glad to have finished reading the book once and for all. Obviously this book has been extremely influential over the past twenty years and there's a lot of valuable insights into what ultimately helped found the burgeoning field of queer theory and helped influence feminist/gender theory in new philosophical directions.
My Gender Theory and Intro Women's Studies classes in college actually included many of the authors and texts that Butler references in Gender Trouble, which made this a much easier, more understandable read for me than I'm sure it would be for a lot of people without those reference points. This is of course, on top of her famously philosophical writing style.
I enjoyed the book, even though aspects of Butler's theory felt ultimately unsatisfying to me as it applies to practical, every day application. For a book with such a strong motivation to develop theory that would be useful in activist work and in the unraveling of identity for many people, I felt like her ideas about the performativity of gender in Gender Trouble, don't go as far as I want them to. In terms of suggesting strategies for resistance, I'm not sure how much of a door Butler opens with this, although I know a lot of people have taken up some revolutionary fire from it.
I do enjoy a lot of the ideas she mentions along the way about the active, constant verbing of gender as it is being reasserted consciously or unconsciously on a daily basis by each of us and I would like to think that does open up some interesting possibilities that continue to emerge as I write this. I would be interested in picking up more of Butler's recent work to also see how her ideas on these things have continued to evolve more recently. ...more
I read The Talented Mr. Ripley a month or so ago and there was something about Highsmith’s style that made the book a really compelling read and whenI read The Talented Mr. Ripley a month or so ago and there was something about Highsmith’s style that made the book a really compelling read and when I found out a little more about her and that she wrote a book about a lesbian relationship, which was apparently strongly embraced during the second wave of feminism, I definitely had to read it. It actually turned out to be so much better than I had been expecting, with really beautiful writing that is highly detailed and observant.
As with her more famous novel, there is something magnetic about the detached voice she often uses. For all the heavy emotions she describes in this very romantic account, she also always maintains a certain cold aloofness, which is the same quality that has allowed her crime fiction to be so successful and which I’m sure made this book especially powerful 50 years ago. While the fact that the relationship is a lesbian one is important to the plot of the novel in many ways, Highsmith also respects her characters enough to let the dynamics of their relationship breathe beyond that, with real depth and care in establishing how they interact with each other just as you would expect in a book about a straight couple.
Which leads into the other amazing thing about this novel: just how thoroughly modern it feels for having been published in 1951, in comparison to other lesbian novels of the day, particularly Beebo Brinker which was actually published ten years later, but feels much, much older. There is a matter-of-fact clarity to Highsmith’s description of the relationship which establishes it as not at all shocking, while she also effectively captures the devastating sacrifices so many gay and lesbian people have to make. Highsmith’s book deals very seriously with her characters’ sexualities and lets there be certain ambiguities about them that make the characters real instead of archetypes.
It is odd to think of just how popular Beebo has become lately compared to the relative obscurity of Price of Salt, even though the latter is not just a thousand times better written, but also much more contemporary-feeling in tone and it’s handling of the topic. It isn’t totally fair to judge them against each other since Beebo was always intended for the pulp market and Highsmith was considered more of a serious writer than Ann Bannon was, but there is a similar setting and coming-of-age component to both books.
SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE, but maybe the best thing about this book is that there is actually a happy ending. This was actually Highsmith’s whole intention from there very beginning when she started the book because so many of the other lesbian novels had horrible, depressing endings. It maybe isn’t a totally believable ending, especially when all signs point to doom right up until the very last page or two, but it is still really great. Plus, even though it ends happily, she leaves certain minor chords in it that make you wonder how things will actually go in the long run and keep it from feeling cheap.
I was really looking forward to reading this due to the style of the art which reminds me a lot of other Fantagraphics favorites Charles Burns and DanI was really looking forward to reading this due to the style of the art which reminds me a lot of other Fantagraphics favorites Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes and I was hoping the stories would have a similar noiry sensibility. In reality, I was a little disappointed. The background political philosophy of the book is sort of watered down Crimethinc with all the usual obnoxious hipster male influences thrown in (he literally name checks Hemingway, Kerouac, Miller, Wolfe, London when he goes through his pantheon of heroes). The art and the writing is fairly skilled I suppose, but there's nothing new here, nothing I haven't seen before, and it's particularly frustrating with such a cliched philosophical take underpinning it. I much prefer the writing of Adrian Tomine who establishes a similar mood in his work without giving us any easy answers. He leaves more space open for the reader's imaginings and leaves more room for the characters' humanity than Lane. I'll be interested to see what Lane does next, but I'm not really impressed with this effort....more
I was so excited when I learned that they finally compiled a full collection of all the Dykes to Watch Out For. Definitely an engrossing read and at aI was so excited when I learned that they finally compiled a full collection of all the Dykes to Watch Out For. Definitely an engrossing read and at a much higher quality of lesbian soap opera drama than the L Word. It made me wish I had more feminist friends around me to hang out with these days. You definitely get to know and love the characters and identify with all that they go through. In some ways, I enjoyed reading the inserted political news just to realize how many scary similarities there are between Bush I and Bush II. For a while, I couldn't figure out which one they were referring to. As it got toward the more recent strips though, admittedly I just stopped reading a lot of the news rants. I think it's probably good that they are there in the sense that they inform her readers in a more fun way than reading the newspaper about what's going on politically, but it also gets a little grating after a while when I think about how a lot of her readership is probably pretty involved and informed already. Anyway, of course Alison Bechdel is classic and awesome and I definitely recommend this. ...more
Meh. It's a pretty solidly, adolescent-going-through-punk-phase kind of comic book with all the usual propaganda about killing your television and notMeh. It's a pretty solidly, adolescent-going-through-punk-phase kind of comic book with all the usual propaganda about killing your television and not letting the suits tame your spirit. Obviously, someone is really, really into Alan Moore. ...more
This book definitely had some serious issues with datedness, despite being an "updated" edition. There is a lot of hippy sociologist lingo being throwThis book definitely had some serious issues with datedness, despite being an "updated" edition. There is a lot of hippy sociologist lingo being thrown around and a lot of the young people are referred to as "long-hairs." The weirdest thing about reading it though has to be realizing how few Americans are actually directly involved in a production line anymore and how much of the factory work has been outsourced elsewhere by now. In response to this, Garson tries to also talk about the automation of office work and how that effects the workers involved, but it still falls a little flat considering how much technological advancements have rendered a lot of what she describes in that portion obsolete as well.
Also, the current status of the American work force with a dwindling production industry and the serious problems of even the car manufacturer juggernauts undermines some of her political viewpoints on the importance of workers learning to better agitate for decent work conditions. In a global economy, American workers' demands are undercut by the constant bottom line that people in poorer countries will probably be willing to do it for less money and under worse conditions. Which isn't to say that her points about what good working conditions are and a more holistic approach to the value of work don't apply, just that her examinations are limited in a larger, more pragmatic sense of how the economy runs now.
Nevertheless, it was a pretty interesting read at least in a historical sense and it was nice to get some individual accounts of how different people deal with the often monotonous, yet stressful daily grind. My main criticism of the book centers mainly on her own account of her experience as an office worker, which comes off very, very badly. It's at this point in the book your suspicions are confirmed that she is pretty spoiled, bourgeois, and disconnected from the workers she supports. Indeed, she seems like someone who isn't even used to working any real full-time job, much less working in a mechanized office environment.
Anyway, it would be interesting to read a truly updated version, particularly as more and more people seem to work on a freelance or independent contractor basis, instead of being official employees. It would also be interesting to read a thoughtful expose of how service-industry jobs effect the people working in them on an individual level, along the same lines as what she's done with factory workers. It would also be interesting to have more context in terms of where the labor movement is at now, how computers effect things, etc. ...more
This book is an expose about the numerous consumer abuses perpetrated by the death industry, which includes undertakers, cemetary owners, and the manuThis book is an expose about the numerous consumer abuses perpetrated by the death industry, which includes undertakers, cemetary owners, and the manufacturers of all their gruesome accoutrements. It was very interesting to learn a little bit about how embalming is actually done, the history of the funeral in America, differences in death ceremonies in Europe, and just to learn some of the facts that are in the book, like how the vast majority of business that florists get in America relates to deaths, something that didn't really occur to me before. I also never realized that the embalming process does not preserve a corpse beyond about a week and that caskets tend to actually accelerate the decay process by trapping anaerobic bacteria in with the body.
Anyway, it's definitely good to be aware of the many things to watch out for when arranging for a funeral and burial of a loved one and it's also interesting to think about how mega-corporations have moved into even the funeral industry with horrible consequences. At this point, I would definitely much prefer a green burial, with just a shroud and no embalming, to any kind of ordinary burial. It's strange to think that just going through the most ordinary event of all, death, can cost thousands and thousands of dollars and shocking to think of all the grieving loved ones in America who have been preyed upon. ...more
Four masterful graphic novels, laboriously created through various print-making techniques. It is fascinating to realize how old some of these works aFour masterful graphic novels, laboriously created through various print-making techniques. It is fascinating to realize how old some of these works are, although they have an incredibly modern look and message. ...more
A little bit of a cliched take on the Asian American experience. We're caught between two worlds OMG! It seems like from the drawing style and the simA little bit of a cliched take on the Asian American experience. We're caught between two worlds OMG! It seems like from the drawing style and the simplicity of the story that it's meant for kids though and it would be a good way to educate a child about what they're going through. ...more