Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eleven More Inspiring Works by Women Writers

(I'm writing up these "books by women" pretty quickly, so these mini-mentions of writings that I've found important, inspiring, or just likable are a mere slap-and-a-dash--but so fun to put together. And more to come…)

1. Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)

I started with the wonderful film adaptation (1995, starring half of everyone British & good), but I read the book too––the hilarious send-up of gothic-y/country romances––about an eminently sensible young woman, Flora Poste, who descends upon her wacko rural relatives to clean up their lives, asking such sensible questions as, Is there "something nasty in the woodshed," or do you just need a nice holiday abroad?

Above: Seth Starkadder (Rufus Sewell) and Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale)

2. Speaking of funny, can I say Elaine May?
I'm saying Elaine May. She "wrote" (is that the right term? created the words of, anyway) some of the funniest improv I know, with Mike Nichols, performing as Nichols and May.
And the charming 1978 screenplay for Heaven Can Wait, and the excellent and unfairly maligned Ishtar (R Brody's defense of it).

3. Annie Proulx, her very not funny short story, "Brokeback Mountain" 
Here's a piece I really would include for the inspiration of the author's writing in itself, separate from the story--for her depiction especially of the weather as a force, which is mirrored by the character's desire.
No kidding, go through the story and search for "wind".
The way that short story opens with the wind battering Ennis's trailer is a marvel:
"Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminum door and window frames. The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in a draft."
We'll see his shirts again...

4. Penelope Lively, Passing On (1989)
What to do with freedom? Middle-aged Helen has lived all her life with her brother and their controlling mother, who had died right before the novel opens. I love this book for Helen's tiny, heroic movements toward having a life.

5. Joan Didion, Salvador (1982)
Didion reports from El Salvador during the Civil War-- the scene where she thinks she's being followed  by a Jeep Cherokee, the trucks the government death squads drove (I think that's the brand name) is the most frightening thing I've read.
"Terror is the given of the place." 

6. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963)
I did read the whole thing--fascinating--but mostly what I remember from it is the most famous and incredibly important bit about the "banality of evil"---incredibly important because if we think evil is going to come with clear and nasty markings, we're missing how it's sitting in the desk chair right next to us... as well as within us.
"Eichmann’s astounding willingness, both in Argentina and in Jerusalem, to admit his crimes was due less to his own criminal capacity for self-deception than to the aura of systematic mendacity that had constituted the general, and generally accepted, atmosphere of the Third Reich. "Of course” he had played a role in the extermination of the Jews; of course if he “had not transported them, they would not have been delivered to the butcher.” He went on to ask, “What is there to ‘admit’?” "
--here, in the New Yorker

7. Madeleine L'Engle A Wrinkle in Time
Space can fold up! So cool! This introduced me to the idea that physics can be understandable, and fun!
8. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale 
One day you go to get cash out of the ATM, and it won't give it to you. It would be just that easy for Powers That Be to take control of your life. Popular again in the Age of Trump, and you can see why.

9.  Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems (1978)

On the wisdom of speaking up, because, after all,
"we were never meant to survive"

10. Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle (1973)

Historically important for being about a young woman coming into her own as a lesbian---harder, then--but it's also about the making of an artist--in the protagonist's case, a filmmaker

11. Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile (France, 1958)

For the smothering feeling of living life in forced moderation.

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