“The Feminine Mystique” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”

(I know I haven’t posted in ages, and this probably isn’t what people following my blog are looking for. I’ll resume posting writer-y stuff when I think of something writer-y to post. In the meantime, I need to write this down.)

Holy. Shit.

I’m reading The Feminine Mystique (by Betty Friedan, for those who have been living under a rock for the last fifty years), and I’m on the second chapter, which traces the development of the mystique through women’s magazines. It’s scary. The idea that women looked at themselves as having no identity outside being a woman is disturbing. It’s downright terrifying that American society tried to reduce women to a monolithic “feminine” ideal with no room for individuality. What really hit me in the gut, though, are the parallels with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I have no doubt that this is intentional on Atwood’s part.

It’s hard to summarize, but I can’t believe I never came across mention of these parallels when I did a high school research paper on The Handmaid’s Tale (Maybe I was reading the wrong critics?). It’s something about the focus on consumerism and appliances, the complicity of women who are willing to help force other women into an ideal in exchange for being allowed to exist on the margins of that ideal, and the initialization of women.

I should write something more extensive about this. Maybe I will. Until then… damn. Margaret Atwood is a damn good novelist, and it is downright terrifying what society has done with the idea of femininity — and women are a big part of that society. People oppressing themselves is downright masochistic.

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Brenna Clarke Gray’s “Ten Commandments of a Righteously Readerly Life”

Brenna Clarke Gray’s “Ten Commandments of a Righteously Readerly Life”

In amusing Ye Olde English!

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I need to read more fiction. Recommendations?

When I started seriously researching my current project, I shifted from reading all fiction, all the time, to reading nothing but non-fiction. I’ve realized recently just how much this has been hurting me as a writer. I’ve lost a lot of the rhythm of the kind of prose I’m trying to write.

Aside from the fact that I had a lot to learn about history and the way people have lived over time, I stopped reading fiction because it was getting harder and harder to find books that were up to my rising standards. Up until early high school, I was satisfied with Star Wars novels, of which there seems to be an endless supply. Unfortunately, as I’ve become more critical as a reader over the years, I’ve found myself enjoying even the best of them less and less (and it doesn’t help that their quality started declining after Vision of the Future.). I’ve become more aware of glaring flaws in a great deal of SF and fantasy in general, too.

I’d turn to traditional literature, but I find most of it boring as hell.  I like Oedipus Rex and Antigone, at least in the translation by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. I like Shakespeare in performance. Middlemarch was tolerable, though I didn’t finish it. I just didn’t get any emotional resonance out of Beowulf, and The Awakening was interesting from an academic point of view but boring in terms of story. These day, I find myself going back to two series: Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Unfortunately, Dan Simmons has turned into a nut-job Islamophobe since writing the Cantos, and George RR Martin is not a book-a-year kind of guy. Thus, I find myself at a loss.

Any suggestions?

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