Thursday, July 09, 2009

My year of no gueros.

Inspired by a post by my friend Joy (her blog is linked over there on the right), I decided I've given enough headspace to guero writers.* Who needs more fresh! manly! wisdom! from white dudes, I ask you? I'd been reading the latest Thomas Pynchon and was moseying my way through a pretty annoying T.C. Boyle book when I thought: fuck it. I will put these books down and indulge in some women writers. As it happens, I've been out of town a lot this month, so my year of no gueros, which was to begin June 1, has started off slowly.

I started by re-reading Toni Morrison's Beloved, which I had read in college in a giant hurry, and was completely bewildered by at the time. The book drifts, jumps, and skitters back and forth in time, space, and imagination without warning or clarity, but this time around I was able to make sense of it. I don't know if I was less aware of the sexual violence built into slavery when I read the book as an undergrad, and therefore missed it, or what, but somehow I had forgotten that aspect of the book. It was perhaps the least fleshed-out, most casual references to the horrific sexual violence experienced by minor characters that most took my breath away. The woman who spent her adolescence "shared by father and son" ("the lowest yet", she called it). The guards abusing prisoners on a prison farm. I could go on, but it's more than I can repeat. It is a powerful book, and a difficult read, and I'm glad I picked it up again, twenty years on, with a more finely honed feminist consciousness and the time to move through the book slowly, deliberately, taking breaks when I needed to catch my breath.

Having no time to go out and buy something new just yet, I picked Mansfield Park off the shelf. I also, clearly, needed something a little more lightweight. I keep hoping that I will find a character in MP that I like, but I just don't like anyone in it. Never have. The character study, the plotting, the witticism, all are what I love about Jane Austen, but there's just nobody to grab ahold of. Fanny's nearly spineless, and when she does have a spine, it's because of some overly correct moral compunction. I'm not into religious people. Edmund's boring, Tom's an ass, Henry Crawford an insufferable egotist, etc., etc. The women are mostly dull or vain, except for the abusive Mrs. Norris, who I want to whack with a stick. I think perhaps this is Jane's pointiest book. I won't go so far as to say it's actually *mean*, but it's definitely got an edge.

I'm nearing the end and in need of more fiction, and so I went trolling through Joy's blog for some contemporary women writers to track down. I'm pleased to report that I have books by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Tayari Jones, and Kathryn Harrison headed my way. I've got some Kate Atkinson queued up but haven't ordered it yet. Book reports to follow, yo.

*I can't find the post I'm thinking of, but you should just go read her whole blog anyway.