Blamer Book Club discussion

Classics (that Don't Make You Want to Puke)

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 1 comments I've wanted to read all "the classics" for quite some time now, and have considered a lot of different lists out there - from colleges, from news organizations, online, etc. But I'm always stymied by the sheer number of 1) male authors, and 2) misogynist male authors. I'm sure that's a problem not unfamiliar to y'all, and I just don't have the stomach for that shit, no matter how literarily (is that a word? I don't care) worthy the book may be.

So what books that are considered "classics" are readable to we blamers of patriarchy? I'm not looking for a feminist reading list explicitly, just a list of the classics culled of all the ridiculous patriarchy-supporting garbage. Or maybe even 65% of it would be nice. Post your books ideas please!

tl;dr: Of the books considered "classics," which ones are the least evil, patriarchy-wise?

message 2: by Kaethe (new)

Kaethe (kaethedouglas) Hmm. Well, my first thought is, read all the women. Even where they are complicit in the subjugation of women, they do tend to focus more on their lives and experiences. Jane Austen is all about finding the right spouse as a financial survival method, but she was also canny enough to see that the right spouse is necessarily the richest one: she has her heroines waiting for someone who treats her with respect and kindness. On that score, her's are all good.

Then I'd suggest Jane Eyre, but not Wuthering Heights. Noel Streatfeild writes about girls and women making a living for themselves, Sister Carrie is sympathetic to the plight of a single woman, as is most of the work of Thomas Hardy, and so too is Vanity Fair.

You can probably give D.H. Lawrence and H.G. Wells since both were interested in women's sexual liberation only so far as to make them a better sex class. Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw both wrote plays starring interesting and human women.

I don't know how interested you are in reading about women, but was one of the first women to make her living at writing.

message 3: by Kaethe (new)

Kaethe (kaethedouglas) I apologize for the white/rich/English bias of my list. That was the way my English degree rolled at the time. My contemporary reading is broader in every sense. In general, women were more successful in writing for women and children at any given time, in the most "pop" of popular culture, so you find more of them in genres like Gothic, and Romance, and Mystery, and Children's than in serious literary fiction. What a shocker, huh, that women's writing would always be considered lesser than men's?

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Does Willa Cather count as "classic"? I haven't read all her work by a long shot, but I think she's amazing. I can hardly imagine a subject more remote from my experience than the life of a Spanish Archbishop in 18th century New Mexico, but her writing is so good that I relished every sentence.

Even less "canonical" but great: Tillie Olsen. The four stories in "Tell Me a Riddle" are really powerful. And Tess Slesinger (one novel, one story collection, a couple of major screenplays, died young) really fell through the cracks but is worth looking for.

Damn, see, I keep sliding away from that "classic" thing. I agree about "Vanity Fair" and I'm a big admirer of John dos Passos' "USA" which certainly has strong women characters, though I wouldn't call him an enemy of the patriarchy.

message 5: by Jennifer (last edited Jul 03, 2012 12:24AM) (new)

Jennifer (thesecondnight) You might want to give some of Toni Morrison's novels a try. They're not exactly old enough to be classics, but she did win the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize. Beloved is a great one to start with.

I also recommend Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, another Nobel Laureate who is still living. I recently read One Hundred Years of Solitude and found all the characters, male and female, to be richly portrayed, though the women, realistically so, operate within a patriarchal society. It's one of those novels where the longer you read it, the more your realize what a masterpiece it is.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is another I'd recommend, book first, then film.

So yeah, these might be considered modern classics because they're all from the last hundred years, but I think they're still worthwhile reads that have well developed female characters and avoid heavy patriarchy support.

message 6: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey | 13 comments Re: H.G. Wells, I enjoyed "Ann Veronica" - although Wells' personal life was questionable, he clearly cared about the women he based this portrait on, and although the character is at times naive she's also a bit of a badass, falling in with the Women's Movement and not compromising on what she wants from life.

I also recommend anything by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; storywise her writing is hit and miss, but her main purpose in writing appears to be boosting up women. Her work gives me a feelgood vibe.

If you're into short stories Katherine Mansfield is great.

message 7: by Lutzka (new)

Lutzka Zivny | 1 comments I think The Well of Loneliness is ridiculously underrated as a piece of literature.
Anna Karenina is amazing.
Henry James. Edith Wharton.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a beautiful writer, but his books are all really rapey. Examples: Of Love and Other Demons is all about a love affair between a middle-aged man and a 13-year-old child; in Love in the Time of Cholera there's both the 12-year-old niece he's fucking and the woman who liked getting raped so much she wanders the docks looking for her rapist; in Hundred Years of Solitude there's the guy who barely waits for a girl to have her period before marrying her; and in Autumn of the Patriarch there's the whole snatching schoolgirls story line. He romanticized the hell out of each and every one.

And To Kill a Mockingbird, while also beautifully written, is all about a low-class lying slut who cries rape.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

On the bright side, I just read Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses and loved how it portrayed women trapped in a patriarchal society with both sympathy and respect.

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