Jan. 23rd, 2012

hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Books 2012: 5-6

5. Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing. University of Texas Press, Austin, 1983.

"[T]he female characters of even our greatest realistic 'classics' by male writers are often not individualised portraits of possible women, but creations of fear and desire." [111]

Quoting Cynthia Griffin Wolf:

"[W]omen appear in literature... as conveniences to the resolution of masculine dilemmas." [112]

Discussing the double standard:

"Critics who are too sensible to succumb to some version of She didn't write it and too decent to resort to the (always rather snide) She did, but she shouldn't have can often find other ways to dismiss... those... who somehow persist in producing art despite the obstacles arrayed against them. Motives for the dismissal differ: habit, laziness, reliance on history or criticism that is already corrupt, ignorance (the most excusable of all, surely), the desire not to disturb the comfort based on that ignorance (much less excusable), the dim (or not-so-dim) perception that one's self-esteem or sex-based interests are at stake, the desire to stay within an all-male, all-white club that is, whatever its drawbacks, familiar and comfortable, and sometimes the clear perception that letting outsiders into the club, economically or otherwise, will disturb the structure of the quid pro quo that keeps the club going." [39]

This is a lucid, biting book that succeeded in illuminating assumptions and unease I'd heretofore been unable to quite articulate. It is a good book to read, a good book to think about - and more importantly, a good book to think with.

It's also still disturbingly relevant.

6. Joanna Russ, The Country You Have Never Seen: essays and reviews. Liverpool University Press, 2007.

I read this before How To Suppress..., and immediately went back to the library for moar Russ. It is the deeper and more thought-provoking book of the pair, by me: full of scathing criticism and biting wit and brilliant insight. Even where I disagree with Russ's conclusions, I can see full well how she arrives at them, and that - for her - she was right to do so. It is an explosion of lightbulbs going off in my brain, one after another after another, until But how did I not see that before? becomes a series of shadows thrown into clear relief.

(And I'm losing control of my metaphor and I don't care.)

I don't want to give it back to the library. I want to keep it beside me and pet it and read it always.


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