Friday, August 6, 2010

Confessions, Cannons, and Lady Thoughts

SS passed his blogging post on to me for the day, and he picked a heck of a day to do it, because The Guardian recently ran an article that got me, and plenty of other lady (and non-lady) readers and writers on the internet*, pretty riled up.

The heart of the message of the article, which is about contemporary female writers who write about their experiences -- which coincidentally happen to include being female (funny how that happens) --- is not a bad thing. At the most interesting (ahem) point in this article, the writer quotes Emily Gould, saying "If a woman writes about herself, she's a narcissist. If a man does the same, he's describing the human condition." True, and important.

But where I take issue with this article is in its rather absurd attempt to trace all female writing about being female to Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City novels. Most specifically, this sentence: "Before Candace Bushnell, books like Gould's that sought to capture the dilemmas and dichotomies of modern womanhood with a wry, humorous honesty, were almost unheard of." The article concludes by rounding up what it adorably terms "Grin And Share It: American Confessional Classics", thereby doing exactly what it criticized: using the word "confessional" as a stand in for "girl-thoughts". The list, which contains some perfectly good and probably smart and entertaining writing, to be sure, defines this four book literary cannon as ranging all the way from Sex and the City to Julie and Julia. Which hardly seems like a range at all.

So, while I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading any of the books mentioned above, I thought I'd put together an alternative list, some of which *gasp* pre-dates Sex and the City. And those that don't, well, certainly weren't written to be paired with a Cosmopolitan and designer footwear (but hey, read how you read). And I resisted the urge to throw in the cannon of historical bad-ass women folk like Sylvia Plath, Virginia Wolf and Joan Didion, and further resisted the urge to really shock and awe with some Kathy Acker or Monique Wittig. I stuck with the Guardian's parameters of "modern confessional". Here we go:

1. Beauty Talk and Monsters, by Masha Tupitsyn, is a collection of semi-autobiographical stories, mostly told through the lens of movies. In these stories, Tupitsyn blends actual experience with her own pop-cultural literacy, blurring (or revealing the already blurred nature of) the lines between reality and learned narratives.

2. Plainwater, by Anne Carson. This book of essays, poems, and essays that read like poems, meditates on relationships, travel, mythology and water almost seemlessly, as if all of the above are one topic. Carson's writing is hypnotic, her insight and vision of the world completely sharp and unique while being entirely relatable. A great traveling book.

3. I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus, is a collection of love letters Kraus and her husband sent to a professional acquaintance after meeting him once. The recipient's name is Richard, and I'd tell you to get your mind out of the gutter if it weren't for the fact that I think Kraus knew exactly what she was doing when she named her book. Raw, honest, and slightly disturbing, it will make all your crushes seem normal.

4. Flaming Iguanas: An Illustrated All Girl Road Novel Thing, by Erika Lopez, is a simultaneously lovely and gritty illustrated partially true coming-of-age-when-you're-already-an-adult story. It's shocking, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny.

Got more? Of course you do. Women have been writing about being women for as long as people have been writing about being people. So share 'em, and we'll all be the better for it.

*I refuse to use the term blogosphere, but that's what I'm talking about. And that kind of self-contradiction is exactly what footnotes are for.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hell ja, Frau!