I like to yank hermits into the spotlight. I'm a sucker for women whose work is sometimes considered "secondary," who kept a low profile and got a lot done. Their lives are usually stranger and their work is often quite unique. So today I'd like us all to focus our attention for a moment on someone who made odd and wonderful fiction, who was constantly seeking out freedom, and who was, to her great dismay, isolated for a large chunk of her short life.
Katherine Mansfield was spirited and strong-willed; diagnosed with tuberculosis at 29, she died five years later after running up a flight of stairs to prove how well she was. She was one of the best writers of the 20th century, though she never wrote a novel, preferring to write in what she called "glimpses." Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal that Mansfield was the only writer she'd ever been jealous of.
Claude Monet called Herman Bang's wartime Tine "the world's first Impressionist novel," floating as it does between characters, events, and chronology. Alexandra Harris' short, delightful book Virginia Woolf, published last fall, is a similarly Impressionist biography. The move to present Woolf—a writer who has been explored, revealed, questioned, adored, criticized, and lionized, over thousands and thousands of pages in the 70 years since her death—in just 192 pages and 10 chapters, is a bold one, to say the least.
In this blog series I want to look into "required reading," how it's taught, and what we (should/could) get out of it. Which classics take up the most space in the collective memory? Is there something worth remembering from the dudecentric classics of high school book lists? (I'm looking about you: To Kill a Mockingbird, Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, Huck Finn, and Lord of the Flies) What about from Mrs. Dalloway, Beloved, and Pride and Prejudice? What makes literature unforgettable and important to fledgling feminists? And what new works should become required reading?
Great artists don't just have to exist in galleries. Books have given us some really inspirational pre- or post-feminist characters that are good at art, and this liberates them either emotionally or physically. What unites them is their independent thinking, as they are determined to go against the grain and not end up like their peers, bitter or vacuous. Some examples here are from classic novels, such as Jane Eyre, where art is a form of escapism for our heroine, whereas in Andrew Davidson's modern novel The Gargoyle we find a sculptress whose work is so consuming that it leaves her exhausted. Whatever the situation, it is clear that these women take their art seriously—it's not just a hobby to keep them occupied before they're whisked off by Prince Charming. This is so much better than a fairytale.
Everyone's been talking about Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom. While book reviewers raved and readers waited with great anticipation for the August 31st release date, authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner both saw all the hype as a platform from which to start asking questions about why books written by women don't get this kind of attention.
Sackville-West was a woman with 'high class' problems — but her story
is interesting nonetheless. Vita was, in addition to her default
socialite status, a writer of prose and poetry, an avid gardener,
Bloomsbury Group associate and lover to quite a few women — the most
famous being, of course, Virginia Woolf. (More after the jump!)
Is there a better way to spend a summer weekend than by kicking back with a good book? This week's feminizt LOLz don't think so!
These two kittehs recommend Sisterhood is Powerful by Robin Morgan. An anthology of writings from the women's liberation movement, it's a must-read for any feminist bookworm (bookkitteh?).
When Virgina Woolf said that in order to be creative, women need their own space and income, she might not have been talking about these puppehs directly, but they still think you should readA Room of One's Own.
Yeah, reading about feminist history is fun and all, but some of us like our summer reads a little sexier. This kitteh is enjoying her copy of Betty Dodson's Sex for One, and she thinks you'd like it too!
As always, thanks to all of everyone who has been sending us hilarious LOLz! Do you have an idea for a feminizt LOL? Make your own by visiting I Can Has Cheezburger and send 'em to us here. Have a great, book-filled weekend, and happy LOL-ing!