Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Challenge? What challenge?

I'm sure that I have already lost the Procrastinators National Posting Month blogging challenge. I only blogged three times last week, one short of the required four, and I have only posted once this week before tonight. I might be able to post two more this week, but I'm sure someone else will win that lovely down pillow. :-( Valerie will probably win it, but maybe she will let me borrow it sometime.

Also, I have not finished reading On Beauty, so I am way behind on the From the Stacks challenge. I had hoped to be reading a new novel and a new short story book by now, but I have been so busy with work and grad school that I haven't had time to read this week. I wish I could figure out a way to stay awake for a few days, then I might be able to get caught up enough to free up some time for reading. Next week, I will not have to work--Thanksgiving break!--and I am going to do as much reading as I can.

Enough whining. I really do have something to blog about tonight.

Recently I completed my reading of Our Kind, which is a novel in stories. These linked stories tell about a group of women, who came of age and married in the 50s. These women followed all the rules of society, until society changed on them and husbands divorced them.

I love this quote from the book that is quoted on the back cover of the paperback: "We could do any damn thing we liked . . . unfettered as we were, and we would, we knew, just as soon as we thought what." The women populating this book do figure out lots of things to do. They try to be good feminists, self-sufficient and independent, and sometimes they are successful. Howver, they never quite reach hero status, yet as a reader, I kept hoping one of them would. They end up being just a bit sad but not pathetic.

Perhaps because I came of age in the late 70s/early 80s, I am fascinated with stories about women experiencing the changes that occurred as a result of the rise of feminism. I like to read about women finding an active place in the world. The women in Our Kind, for the most part, didn't want to join the fight for women's rights. Yet, late in their lives, they find themselves unmarried, divorced, and widowed, so they become independent women by default.

As I was finishing this book, I kept thinking of the word ephemeral. My mental pictures as I read seemed to be blurry around the edges as if the picture was disolving. I'm not sure what this means, but I do think women like those in the book were fleeting. Times changed and women like them no longer exist.

Because I borrowed this book and didn't buy it, I didn't mark many passages in it. Two that I did mark seem to speak volumes about the women in this book as well as about many people that I know.

The final story tells the of Viv, who had plans to go to grad school until a proposal of marriage puts a halt to her plans. In the story, she is sitting in the office of two female professors, trying to figure out how to tell them that she had decided not to pursue grad school. She chickens out and tells them that she is sure that she can go back to grad school after she is married. The two professors do not believe her, and Viv really doesn't believe herself although she can't admit her doubt to herself. As she leaves the offices, she thinks, "Deferred . . . A year or two of waiting; then she would show them what a woman could do." Sadly, Viv never returns to grad school--life gets in the way. The title of this story is "The Beginning of the End," an apt title for the ending story in the book and for a story about the end of a drem.

In the same story, Viv thinks this as she is reflecting on her late life experience in a ficiton writing class: "The few times we speak of true things it is almost unbearable, and so we do not, mostly preferring to laugh." There's something sad about this statement, especially in the context of the story, "The Beginning of the End." (Too bad, I'm too sleepy to elaborate on this thought.)

Maybe I will write more about this sentence later. Now, I have to go to bed before I fall asleep sitting up on the couch.


Valerie said...

That book sounds good. I will have to add it to my list of to read, which is already way too big!

Based on what you wrote here, I really still think you need to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!

Anonymous said...

Challenge? What Challenge? I must admit, I procrastinated so much I didn't even pot much for the challenge I created and, don't be sad, no one got a pillow. I must say, my inner procrastinator won at on all levels .... southaustinkid