Thursday, June 2, 2011

When It Rains... pours random coincidii. It is raining lightly here today, watering the lawn and flowers, not attacking with a tornado, as in Massachusetts, nor, so far, with thunder, though it is Thor's Day in the blog. My daughter, finished with finals, has plans to go swimming, but if there is even a glimmer of lightning, this will not be allowed, in fifteen minute increments, at the public pool.

Today I finished Unless, by Carol Shields. It was urgent to do so, as I was wrapped up in the story and also in the sad, stark view of the persistence of inequality, silencing, and subjugation of women in the world today (in a novel set at the dawn of the 21st century), despite so many advances.

Of women and of women writers.

This was exacerbated--my sad urgency--by an article about VS Naipaul in the London Evening Standard, posted by Ren Powell on Facebook. Naipaul's comments about women writers strike me as appalling, tactless, and representative; his opinions are his own, of course, and from his own cultural standpoint, but are clearly shared by many. I leave you to it.

What I hoped for in the book was some kind of generous, subtle, nonviolent triumph--some brilliant resolution of all the strands that was more than any neat tying up of loose ends, after the necessary tight knot and its unraveling. I got what I came for, and leave you to that, as well. I do recommend this mother-daughter story that has women and men in it, in all kinds of engaging ways.

The blurbs on my green paperback include this: "Lives may have cracked asunder, but wry comedy leavens the tale," from the New York Times Book Review. Very wry, I'd say, and not obviously comic. If this is not on that list of 250 books by women that men should read, it should be.

And here's some wry and gentle comedy. We've just had some wonderful family-wamily time over the Memorial Day weekend, brother and sisters gathering with parents in the Midwest, teen/grown children mingling. My brother's family had seen Thor, the new movie. His wife and daughter shrugged, saying the film would have been better if Thor had taken off his shirt sooner and left it off longer. "Why cast that actor if he's going to keep his shirt on?" My brother enjoyed it thoroughly, reminding us that he used to buy and read the Thor comic books.

So I'd say some things balance out in these areas. If women can be discussed as sex objects, so can men, and it can be done gently, with good humor.

But for women to continue to be routinely dismissed as lesser, sentimental, weak, and so on, after all this time, whether as humans or as artists, no, I can't shrug that off.

Vive le différence! as the saying goes, in comic and tolerant appreciation, but let's get rid of the inequality and constant judgments, please. No more salt in the wound.


Maureen said...

I also posted to my FB page that miserable Naipaul quote. Anyone who's read his biography perhaps should not be surprised the low esteem in which he holds women.

Kathleen said...

Thank you, Maureen. I was astonished. I had been thinking for a long time, I must read some Naipaul; he is highly regarded, etc. I have one of his books, inscribed to a family friend who died (inscribed not by Naipaul, but by a friend of the friend) and it sits on my shelf. After I read this article, I considered chucking the book, but there it sits, because of the dead friend.

Nancy Devine said...

the words about women are so appalling i'm not mentioning the name of the man who said them.

Kathleen said...

Ah! Good idea, Nancy.

DJ Vorreyer said...

Jeers to Naipaul for showing his lack of respect for anyone. Cheers to Chris Hemsworth shirtless - I had a huge crush on comic book Thor as a girl, and this casting does not disappoint.

Great poems in YB...I really enjoyed them.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Donna. Glad to hear you are a Thor fan, like my bro!