Thursday, October 28, 2004


OK, I've finally read something other than Diana Gabaldon or Joseph Hansen. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell gets its own post, however! The delights of that wonderful novel are still swirling about in my brain. Next, I gobbled, in the most greedy manner, a novel penned in 1913 & 1914, but only published in 1971, a year after E.M. Forster's death. Maurice: A novel was as fresh as if written yesterday, as far as the writing goes. However, it is an amazing picture of England in the early 20th century. Until 1967, homosexuality was illegal, and the social sanctions were very strong against homosexual feelings, much less sexual acts! "In 1980, the Criminal Justice Act brought Scots law in line with English law, decriminalizing sex between men in private. In 1994, the age of consent for homosexual acts was reduced from 21 to 18. In 2000, it was reduced to 16 (which is also the age of consent for heterosexual acts)." Maurice is in no way a screed, or about the social conditions or the law. It is about HAPPINESS, and three men, and their choices. Great book -- too bad it could not have been published in 1914, but since it did not end with the punishment of the men involved in an proscribed activity and mindset, it could not be published then. I'm glad some progress has been made.


I happened across The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch (1994) at the library. This is the first novel by Murdoch I've read, and I didn't know what to expect. Puzzling, creative, fascinating, thoughtful -- good read. Slow, but then -- you see the story from almost ALL viewpoints, and there are lots of characters in this group. What a wealth of imagination Miss Murdoch had. The characters were so well-drawn, I felt I was in 'the family,' a group of close friends in London. Although the book was surely set in the 80s or 90s, I kept feeling that I was in Edwardian London. Murdoch can really play with your mind! I can't think of another novel where the action was seen through so many pairs of eyes. Almost dizzying, at times. I have such admiration for the skill of Iris Murdoch. What a treasure we have lost!


Now reading Exuberance by Kay Redfield Jamison (2004), who also wrote An Unquiet Mind. It was an interesting read -- lots of interesting character sketches, intermixed with scientific studies of brain chemicals, moods and emotions, and more. Written in an exuberant style, fittingly.

I also got books for Christmas! Professional Genealogy leads the list, and I'm sure I'll be studying that one for YEARS. Also got the Social History of the Scotch-Irish by Leyburn, and a fascinating-looking Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt. Finally, got 2 Diana Gabaldons and London by Edward Rutherfurd. After Xmas bonus: Monarch of the Glen. :-)


Paul Herrick wanted me to read Taking Sex Differences Seriously by Steven E. Rhoads. I guess this is supposed to be a provocative polemic for some imagined good old days when women were pure and men were tamed by 'em, but it had several serious weaknesses for me, although I had to agree with half of his points. Rather than drawing a logical conclusion, however, he just begged the question! I kept thinking, "yeah, yeah, yeah..... HUH?"

The research was good, and some of the studies were new to me. The writing was decent, for a non-fiction treatment of an important topic. The thinking, however, was seriously flawed. Rhoads sets up the straw-man (straw woman?) of feminism over and over again, of course to knock it down. A serious consideration of the conundrum that faces all of us moderns would have been much more valuable. Many women want to work for a living, and many more feel they have to for financial reasons. (And thus it has always been.) On the other hand, women want to stay home with their babies and young children more than men do. If they follow their hearts and stay home, they lose pay, of course, but more important, they lose TIME. They lose career momentum, and years worked. When they do return to work, their earning power is seriously compromised. Plus, the months or years at home with no paying work weakens women's power in our monetistic society.

If, on the other hand, women continue working, both they and their children suffer. Women who do not want children, or want to have them but continue working, are injured by the choices of the women who choose to stay home. Their pay will be depressed, they will be less likely to have wide choices of good day care, and they will suffer the loss of power even though they continue to work. I have no answers for this, but at least I can pose the question. I wish Rhoads had thought about this.

Instead, I waded through silly arguments about "The Rules" and such trash, Title IX moaning about the loss of wrestling, and who wants to hold babies more. Sheesh. Rhoads does not even discuss homosexuality in his arguments! Perhaps he can offer some serious thought on the issues, but they will not be found in this book. Steve, read some anthropology, dude! US society does not represent all humans though all of time. I'm glad I didn't spend any money on this turkey.


Free Books Online:

Project Gutenberg:

The Online Books Page:


Fantasy and Science Fiction:


If you happen to own a dangerous science book, you may need one of these warning labels:

Just finished a wonderful kid's book,The B.F.G. by Roald Dahl, who is always a good bet for a quick read. The most amazing created words -- especially wonderful insults. I love Matilda, and Witches, and James and the Giant Peach also.

Future file: James Morrow - Only Begotten Daughter & The Jehovah trilogy. Paul de Kruif - Microbe Hunter. Arrowsmith.

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self. - Aldous Huxley

No comments: