Wah, it’s now the start of autumn here down under. I love, love, love autumn (and not just because my birthday occurs during it) but it does mean that winter’s next and I hate, hate, hate that! We do, however, have fun things to entertain us when things get glum like, for example, The Six Degrees of Separation meme. It is currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest) – and if you are not familiar with how it works, please click the link on Kate’s blog-name. She explains it all. Meanwhile, this month’s book is one that I should have read when it came out, given my interests, but didn’t, Naomi Wolf’s The beauty myth. As always though, I’ve read all the linked books.
Now, when I said I should have read The beauty myth, given my interests, but didn’t, I mean that I have been interested for a long time – since I read Germaine Greer’s The female eunuch back in the 1970s – in the way western culture, specifically, objectifies women. Wolf’s The beauty myth, which was praised by Greer, looks, among other things, at the way women are pressured to conform to set notions of beauty, and are exploited as a result.
A more recent – and Australian – book-cum-memoir which looks, among other things, at the way women are pressured to meet societal standards of beauty is Tara Moss’s The Fictional woman (my review). Her thesis is that women are subject to an inordinate number of fictions that contradict reality, and that this helps perpetuate ongoing inequalities for women in myriad ways. Despite having some long bows, this book – written in 2014 – is spot on in terms of what is now, finally, coming to the fore. It’s distressing that so many writers (among others) have been saying the same things about this issue for SO long, but here we are, in 2018, still in a patriarchal society which thinks it’s ok to objectify and thus control women. Unbelievable.
Another memoir by a feminist is Kate Jennings’ Trouble: Evolution of a radical (my review). It’s a different sort of memoir, a “fragmented autobiography” she calls it. It comprises a compilation of Jennings’ writings selected and ordered by her to show how she has come to be the person she is, to believe the things she does. It’s an engrossing book that includes fiction (poetry and prose) and non-fiction (including interviews) written over a couple of decades.
And, it includes excerpts from her own semi-autobiographical novella, Snake (my review), which I have also reviewed here. Snake is a coming-of-age story set in rural Australia, and tells of Girlie and Boy, and their parents Rex and Irene. It’s not a happy childhood, and in fact the book was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as a “domestic dystopia”. The snake title provides a clever motif encompassing such ideas as temptation, deceit and danger.
There are several books I could link from here, including Jill Ker Conway’s memoir The road from Coorain and Francesca Rendle-Short’s fiction-cum-memoir, Bite your tongue, but I’d like to leave the Australian continent at least once in this journey. Consequently, I’m choosing another autobiographical novel about a difficult childhood, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the only fruit (my review). Unlike Snake though, the orange motif is far less clear but seems to relate, in part at least, to closed-mindedness. At the end of the novel, pineapples appear, which may suggest change.
Pineapples bring us back to Australia and a book with pineapples in the title, Thea Astley’s Hunting the wild pineapple (my review of the short story from this collection). It is set on a pineapple farm in a place called Mango, and deals, among other things, with the power wielded by white men over others – in particular, women (reminding me of where this month’s meme started) and migrants. And now …
For my last book, I’m going to link on names – from author Thea Astley to character Thea in Dymphna Cusack’s Jungfrau (my review). Coincidentally, this book returns to another thread in this meme, the coming-of-age one (though perhaps, as Diana Blackwood suggested in the comments on my review of her novel Chaconne, it’s more a “wising-up” one.) Set in 1930s Sydney, it concerns three young women, Thea, Eve and Marc, and revolves particularly around Thea’s affair with her married professor. Hmmm … I think we are back to the idea of the unbalanced power relationship between men and women. I’ll leave it there…
This month, again, we haven’t travelled far, only visiting the same countries as last month – the USA, England and Australia. We’ve stayed in the last 100 years and with women writers only. I must diversify a little more next month.
And now, have you read The beauty myth? And whether or not you have, what would you link to?