**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this book. I think the faux military history parts held me back from giving this a full five stars, but overall I r...more**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this book. I think the faux military history parts held me back from giving this a full five stars, but overall I really enjoyed this book.
Despite its brevity, it packs a lot of analysis and social anxiety of the 1970s into its covers. Interestingly, he forecasts that men and women and openly gay people will serve side-by-side in combat roles -- amazing considering how long it took the military itself to come around to this conclusion. But despite the presence of women in the ranks, he seems to struggle with what this means for straight male sexuality. They outlaw withholding consent because sex among the ranks is good for morale -- a policy that's surely troubling to say the least. (He also projects that the world will actually throw its weight behind the UN as a military force in the event of an alien enemy, an idea that seems somewhat dubious in today's world.)
Still, the book reads as a very real way of dealing with the problems and emotions following not only the Vietnam War, but the numerous ways society was uprooted for those like the narrator: a privileged white man. He becomes representative of a sort of "everyman," one whose expiration date on dominance is about due. He survives many campaigns not because he's special but rather because he isn't. That fact compounds the sense of senselessness that came out of the Vietnam War -- it's dumb luck that allows a soldier to survive, not any special talent or skill.
Anyway, most of this is cribbed from our book club discussion, but overall I enjoyed the book, and sci-fi fans should consider it to have a place in their cannon. (less)
If you ever can bear to revisit the pains of late adolescence, Anaïs Nin's second diary can guide you through it in a delightful way.
This volume is wr...moreIf you ever can bear to revisit the pains of late adolescence, Anaïs Nin's second diary can guide you through it in a delightful way.
This volume is written in English. She switches from her native French because she has so fallen in love with the English language. She remains strongly devoted to reading, consuming volumes by Emerson, Bossuet, Poe, Descartes, Darwin, Rostand, Tennyson, Henri Merger, Sinclair Lewis and Stevenson. (She was not a fain of Lewis'. She found his writing too plain.) It is during this time that she begins classes at Columbia University, where she endearingly said she studied four subjects: "Composition, Grammar, French and Boys."
It is this last subject that is one of the main themes of this book, that, and coming to terms with her own beauty. She goes from often criticizing her own appearance to eventually serving as an artists' model. She once even appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. There are moments when she expresses surprise at discovering people think she is pretty. It is through this eventual comfort with her own looks that she also matures in her feelings about the opposite sex.
In this volume, there are two boys between whom she splits her devotion. First, she forms a great intellectual bond with her cousin, Eduardo. Eventually she confesses to her mother that she thinks she might be attracted to him. Her mother dismisses this as the silliness of youth, and promises she will get over it. And A.N. does eventually get over her devotion to her cousin, but always views him as someone with whom she has a deep bond.
Eventually, her admiration turns to Hugo (officially named Hugh, but goes by Hugo to avoid confusion because his father holds the same name), a young man who she finds to be steady and intellectual but she often struggles to know how he really feels about her. Eventually, of course, she marries Hugo, and that marks the end of this volume, but it is the journey of young love, making choices about these feelings that suddenly arise, that really make this book.
Again, A.N. speaks often of her passion for writing. She goes through the phases many young writers do; she notes that everything has already been written. She wonders how she could possibly contribute to a literary world which is already filled with great writing.
She also makes resolutions often in the book: she promises to be virtuous in housework; she promises to write daily in her journal; eventually, as she becomes betrothed to Hugo, she promises to put his wishes above her own. It's almost heartbreaking, these youthful designs that will all eventually be broken. But that feeling of youth, of resolving to, from that day forward, commit strongly to one thing or another, is one that is all too common in youth.
In this book, we see A.N. gradually move from a child to a young woman. It is a journey that is filled with joy and heartbreak, and one that might seem all too familiar.(less)
OK, I'll admit that I've cited Arlie Horschild's work in this book without having ever read it until now. I was impressed at how this research, in whi...moreOK, I'll admit that I've cited Arlie Horschild's work in this book without having ever read it until now. I was impressed at how this research, in which she presents the observations of 10 of the couples she and her colleague studied for years in the 1980s, remains so relevant to this day. Honestly, though this book is a sociological work, I think almost anyone could get something out of it.
The book takes a look at the politics of household work -- from gender ideologies to family myth-making -- and resonated with me. All too often, I think couples think that household responsibilities are too unimportant to spend much time or energy thinking about, but as Horschild points out, we're in the midst of a dramatic change in the way families economics are structured and the resentment of both men and women isn't insignificant. She takes on the different strategies families try, from the supermom/superdad strategy to the self-bargaining and the adherence to old-fashioned ideas about men earning and women doing child rearing. She also points out that something has to give: house work, child rearing, outside-the-home work, or one's marital and sex life. In short, Hochschild pretty much determines that you cannot, in fact, have it all.
She points out that almost every family that thinks they are splitting the work equally in fact is not. She also points out that those with more traditional gender ideologies actually tend to do a better job of splitting the chores, if only because they have little economic choice than to have the woman work as much as possible.
I'd say women should read the book, but frankly, it'd be great to see men read it too. (less)
I found this to be probably the most engrossing plotwise of the three I went back and read, but I realized as I read the three back-to-back this time...moreI found this to be probably the most engrossing plotwise of the three I went back and read, but I realized as I read the three back-to-back this time that the jokes that are repeated throughout get a bit tired as you make it through them. If I were to takle this series again, I'd probably space them out rather than just reading them one after another. (less)
Though a lot of the stuff in this book wasn't new to me—pay of your debts, set aside money for retirement, evaluate carefully if it's actually smarter...moreThough a lot of the stuff in this book wasn't new to me—pay of your debts, set aside money for retirement, evaluate carefully if it's actually smarter to rent or to own—the simple, straightforward advice Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi offer is great for almost anyone.
They put forth a practical plan that's helpful for everyone. Some of the advice didn't necessarily apply to me now, like how to save on owning a car or shopping around for a good deal on mortgage, but it was still great advice that I may end up actually using someday. In the meantime, it helped prompt me to get serious about saving while I'm young, healthy, and don't have a lot of extra expenses. Plus, lots of her advice would have been prescient when it came out in 2005, warning not to buy to big or take out home equity loans.
Hilariously, then-Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagen is thanked in the acknowledgements for "her unwavering commitment to the belief that academic work should make a real difference in the world. Thanks Elena." With Kagen on the Supreme Court and Warren herself running for U.S. Senate, it seems like they're both well on their way to literally "making a real difference in the world."(less)
This book easily falls under the genre of "retro classic feminist text," if that even exists as a genre.
This book is pretty straightforwardly about r...moreThis book easily falls under the genre of "retro classic feminist text," if that even exists as a genre.
This book is pretty straightforwardly about rape. All kinds of rape, throughout history. In the first several chapters, she documents cases of mass rape: The German Army's rapes of Belgium women in World War I, Nazis rapes of Jewish women during World War II, rape in Bangladesh, American soldiers' rapes of Vietnamese women during the war (and commanders' horrifyingly misguided attempts to offer up prostitutes as an alternative), rape during the American Revolution (the Third Amendment takes on a whole new meaning), rape during the Russian revolution, rapes of Mormon women, the KKK's rapes of black women, rapes against white women in the Congo, Indians raping white women as well as white men raping Indian women, and slave owners who routinely and systemically raped their female slaves.
If this list seems inordinately long, I believe it is because Brownmiller had that intention. After carefully documenting rapes throughout history, especially in the wake of war, riot and revolution, one could not possibly mistake rape for a sexual crime. She ardently refutes this fact: Rape is about power and it is about forcing domination over another. It has nothing to do with sex or desire.
Brownmiller is hailed as the first person to comprehensively tackle the subject of rape at a time when a lot of people still believed that women couldn't be raped, or if they could, it was probably her fault for wearing or saying the wrong thing. She also covers issues that were likely considered fringe at the time: child abuse, acquaintance rape, and male prison rape.
And how Brownmiller came to write this book is curious. She describes her own experience of writing a feature piece for Esquire in 1968 about a rape case in which she disbelieved the victim because she was a liberal, the woman who was accusing was white, and the accused were black. At the time, she believed the case was a dead ringer for the one against the Scottsboro Boys.
At the time I had asked for the assignment, the young men had spent six years on Death Row, their case had been to the Supreme Court twice and an active citizens' defense committee, formed to protest the severity of the sentence, had become convinced of their innocence. To the defense committee, the original crime appeared to be nothing more than a little escapade of consensual sex that upon discovery a promiscuous, unstable white girl decided to call rape. It didn't take them long to convince me. As it happened, while I was preparing my final copy, the case was dismissed, and the three defendants were set free, which wrapped things up neatly in terms of the piece.
But while I was pursuing my single-minded researches, a friend who lived in Washington and was following the case asked me one day, "How can you be so sure they're innocent?"
"What do you mean?" I testily replied. "There's a long line of these cases. It's a little Scottsboro, there's a defense committee. "
"Yes, I know," she answered." But what makes you so positive? You weren't there. How do you really know what went on? How does anyone know?
How did I "know"? I didn't.
And it seems it is this exchange that set Brownmiller on a quest to understand a phenomenon to which everyone's understanding is so couched in their own prejudices. The introduction of the book ends, "I wrote this book because I am a woman who changed her mind about rape." And her discovery took her places where shockingly few had gone before. She writes that at the time she set out to research her book, "I was soon to learn that no library in the world had efficiently cataloged rape material."
If this sounds outdated, it's because it is. Obviously a lot of the statistics that Brownmiller painstakingly recounts in this book are have been updated. We now have a lot more data on sexual assault victims. Scientists study rape, rapists, and rape victims.
But as far as we've come, perhaps what is most disturbing about Brownmiller's book is what hasn't changed. The last three chapters, which are arguably her three strongest, she documents the mentality of the victims. Testimony after testimony reveals the shame these victims feel about failing to ward off their attackers, ways the cops didn't believe them or tried to blame them for the event, and the anger that the victims feel.
TESTIMONY: People always say, you know, "time heals all wounds," "things get better with age," et cetera. I hate that fucker more today than I did when it happened to me.
So this book in some ways feels dated but in others feels as fresh as if it had been written yesterday. And that is the challenge of thinking about and dealing with the problem of rape in human culture. It gets better but it also doesn't. Brownmiller says that even if the best anti-rape laws were on the books and they were always prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, she doesn't believe rape would disappear.
And she's right. We will be dealing with this problem forever. (less)