Well, this week I had read quite a bit actually. But it’s that kind of reading that’s done in dribs and drabs and doesn’t really lend itself to a coherent thought but instead comes back to you hours or even years later, forming a perfect little bridge between one idea in your head and another. It’s actually the kind of reading I enjoy a great deal intellectually, but it quite as fulfilling psychologically as finishing a great book.
But I am working on that, too. I just started Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver on Friday, and I’m hooked. Hooked, I say. So many of bloggers have raved about it, so many people at my yoga studio have raved about it, even the ravers probably rave about it (are there still people that actually go to raves regularly, or am I dating myself?) – that I thought it had to be overrated. It’s not. I’m on chapter three, and if sleep hadn’t forced me to drop the book on my nose last night, I would probably be done with it by now. So you’ll be seeing a “rave” review from me in the coming week or so.
Meanwhile, I’ve read some great Judith Butler stuff this week – it’s not new stuff, at least in the world of academic theory, but it’s new for me and for most of the universe it seems. Her book Gender Trouble has as the basic thesis that these binaries about gender – women and men only – are erroneous, that they overlook all the limits of having gender exist only in these two forms. I know that this is odd and heavy stuff, and part of me wants to argue, but we only have two sexes (based on our anatomies), but then I remember that’s not true strictly – and I remember all the people I know whose anatomies have changed through surgery or hormones. And then I remember all those men I know who would be better described as feminine than masculine and women who are more masculine than feminine. . . and suddenly, I’m seeing Butler’s point. It’s an idea worth considering.
I also read some of Diane Elam’s work in Ms. en Abyme, where she talks about the identity of woman as being ever more complicated as we keep trying to portray that identity in one dimension. Her point is that if we take an image of what some people see as the epitome of “woman” (please, save me from this definition being applied to myself), say Donna Reed, then each time we see Donna Reed represented as “woman” that definition becomes more complicated as the real women of the world bounce their complexities of that representation, breaking it down into every smaller bits and into ever more complex images of “woman.” Think of a mirror broken into a thousand pieces that reflects the same picture – say bell hooks – over and over again in slightly different ways. They are all bell hooks (or they are all “woman”) but then they are all different. Now, imagine that same mirror shows every woman in the world that way – there is the idea. Nothing – no definition, no stereotype, no expectation – ever captures what it is to truly be woman. The same is true for man, although our society seems to more easily accept that idea. What do you think of Elam’s and Butler’s ideas?
Okay, so enough theory. (Sorry – I guess I’m excited by those thoughts.) I’m going to go spend some time reading Kingsolver, but before I do, I’d like to update my blog roll. . . so if you blog, particularly about books and writing and teaching, please let me know, and I”ll add you. I believe in sharing the wealth on this free Internet thingy, and I’d love to get you readership. (and if you blog about other stuff, let me know, too. I might post to anything – you never know). Thanks for reading.
“Mayan Woman Walking on the Beach in Cancun” by Ricard Carreon