27 February, 2008

Feminist book club

I like to set myself projects for reading, and one of this year's projects is going to be to read some more feminist texts: some rereads and some new books, alternating some classics with some more recently published books. I'll try and do longer reviews of them here and link to them on my women's group blog - and anyone who fancies reading along and making this a collaborative effort, that would be great. So far the list of books I'm intending to read includes
  • Simone de Beauvoir's The second sex (I've only ever read bits of this as it's pretty wordy and heavy-going)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft's A vindication of the rights of woman (I read this as a teenager, but don't remember much about it)
  • Betty Friedan's The feminine mystique - again, I read this when I was a student, but fancy rereading it
  • Susan Faludi's new book The terror dream, about gender roles in America since 9/11
  • Sheila Rowbotham's Woman's consciousness, man's world
  • Élisabeth Badinter's XY, de l'identité masculine
  • Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas
  • Deborah Siegel's Sisterhood interrupted

Suggestions are welcome!

Edit: just want to add a couple of links to articles about inspiring feminist books: feminists name important books in the Guardian, and Guardian readers respond; the f-word has a similar article here.

11 February, 2008

Christa Wolf

Two books by the East German writer Christa Wolf: Accident and The quest for Christa T. I love her drifting, stream of consciousness style: it's very similar to the way my own thought patterns work, and I find myself becoming slightly hypnotised by the writing. I also like her sense of history: The quest for Christa T. is in part about the generation who grew up during the Nazi period, and the reader is always aware of that without Wolf overtly mentioning it much. Accident is an odd, very short stream of consciousness novel: the narrator goes about her day as her brother undergoes brain surgery, and, at the same time, one of the reactors in Chernobyl powers station is on fire. It's an odd little book but I really enjoyed it. [7] [8]

08 February, 2008

Free book

I entered a competition on the Penguin books website a while ago and won this book! It arrived yesterday in the post. I had forgotten entering the competition, in fact, and spent some time wondering where it might have come from. Anyway, I'm delighted. It's a beautiful hardback book, set and bound very nicely, and the poems are lovely too.

05 February, 2008

U & S lent me a pile of novels by Barbara Trapido while I was off sick last autumn, but as it turned out I didn't actually read many of the books people lent me. So I only got round to Brother of the more famous Jack a couple of weeks ago, while trying to get myself out of my reading block. It was tremendous fun, engaging and light with a lovely narrative voice, so I followed it up with Temples of delight, also by Barbara Trapido. I like her weird characters and her cheerfulness. [5] [6]

04 February, 2008

Two very different communists

Two odd biographies - the poet Yevtushenko's Precocious autobiography and the spy Kim Philby's My silent war. Both short, both strange, both by communists, but that's about all they had in common. Philby's book would have been more fun with a bit more in it about the way he met and contacted his Soviet partners (ie. geeky John le Carré tradecraft stuff) but I suppose at the time it was published he couldn't say anything for practical reasons. The Yevtushenko book was odd, but I'm still mulling it over, so maybe I'll write more later. [3] [4]

01 February, 2008

Adorned in dreams: fashion and modernity was an interesting book of fashion history which was also trying to assess what fashion is. I liked it a lot: it discussed various ideas about fashion and how it works - does it enslave women and followers of fashion, for example, or is it a means of self-expression? It had some interesting things about fashion and modernity, especially when discussing Chanel: Wilson mentioned two things about Chanel that I thought were interesting. Firstly, on a pratical level, that she was the first designer to take aspects of sportswear and incorporate them into female fashions (male fashions had been modelled on male riding wear from the beginning of the 19th century), and secondly, that a lot of her clothes were deliberately unimpressive: tat under her influence, the clothes of rich women and of poorer women became a lot more similar in style, if still distinguished by the quality and fabric. [1]

On my other blog I quoted this passage:

Chanel created the 'poor look', the sweaters, jersey dresses and little suits that subverted the whole idea of fashion as display; although her trenchcoats and 'little nothing' black dresses might be made of the finest cashmere and her 'costume jewellery' - careless lumps of what looked like glass - were uncut emeralds and diamonds.

I also enjoyed Janet Radcliffe Richards' The sceptical feminist, which I've been reading for a while and finally finished: it's a lovely logical examination of some of the tenets of feminism and whether or not they're valid. She does quote some truly bonkers ideas, so I have to keep reminding myself that she's writing at the end of the 70s/beginning of the 80s when there were more truly bonkers ideas around. But her careful tracing and refutations of the arguments why women should be excluded from certain jobs or activities - or, on the other hand, her questioning of whether feminists should reject 'feminine' adornment - is a real delight. [2]